Virgin Atlantic Launches First-Ever Pakistan Routes to Fill Void

Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. announced its first new routes since the start of the coronavirus crisis, saying it will serve Pakistan for the first time after bans on the Asian nation’s flag carrier created a gap in the market.

Virgin will serve Pakistan’s capital Islamabad from both London Heathrow and Manchester airports, as well as Lahore -- the country’s second-largest largest city -- from Heathrow alone, it said in a statement Thursday.

The move comes after the carrier founded and controlled by billionaire Richard Branson won creditor backing this week for a 1.2 billion-pound ($1.6 billion) rescue plan. It said the new flights are viable because the market mostly comprises trips to visit friends and family fueled by the large number of people of Pakistani origin living in the U.K., bolstered by the curbs on Pakistan International Airlines after a crash earlier this year.

The European Union’s air-safety regulator barred PIA from flying into the bloc for six months from July 1 after one of the carrier’s Airbus SE A320 jets crashed in Karachi on May 22 following a botched landing attempt, killing almost 100 people. The ban also applies to the U.K. and could be extended.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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