ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan welcomed the first British Airways (BA) flight on Monday after a decade-long absence due to security fears, with ministers saying it will boost business, trade and tourism between the South Asian nation and Britain.
BA’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner landed in Islamabad from Heathrow airport to begin a three flights per week service, Pakistan’s Civil Aviation spokesperson Farah Hussain said. High-ranking Pakistani and British embassy officials welcomed the flight, which returned to Britain the same day.
“With this kind of connectivity that we now have, British investors will find it so easy, Pakistani diaspora will find it very easy, our own exporters, our own business people will now have a great connectivity of going from here to London,” said Pakistan’s trade and industry minister Abdul Razaq Dawood.
“From London the whole word is open to us.”
British High Commissioner Thomas Drew and BA’s Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Brem called on Prime Minister Imran Khan, who said the resumption of BA flights to Pakistan will boost tourism in the country and encourage increased trade and investment.
“The links between Britain and Pakistan are already extra-ordinary from commerce, cricket and culture to people, politics and education,” Drew added.
“This launch is a vote of confidence in the future of those links.”
BA halted service to Pakistan following the 2008 Marriott Hotel bombing in the capital Islamabad which took place during a period of devastating Islamist militant violence in Pakistan.
Security has improved since, with militant attacks sharply down in the mainly Muslim country of 208 million people, reviving Pakistan as a destination for tourist and investors.
At present, only loss-making national carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flies directly from Pakistan to Britain, but its ageing fleet of planes is a frequent source of complaints by passengers.
BA’s Brem said the airline decided to resume operations due to increasing demand and the improved security situation in Pakistan.
“The priority for us is to fly where our passengers want to go and we absolutely had a demand to travel to Islamabad,” Brem told a news conference.
Reporting by Asif Shahzad, editing by Ed Osmond