British Airways Resuming Flights To Pakistan

Filed Under: British Airways

This one has been rumoured for a while…

For the first time in 10 years, British Airways will operate flights to Islamabad, Pakistan, three times weekly from June 2, 2019, with the following schedule, per Airline Route:

  • BA260 London Heathrow (LHR) to Islamabad (ISB) departing 9:15PM arriving 9:25AM (+1) (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays)
  • BA261 Islamabad to London Heathrow departing 11:10AM arriving 4:00PM (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays)

The flight will be operated by British Airways Boeing 787-8 featuring 35 business class, 25 premium economy and 154 economy seats.

It is blocked at 8 hours, 10 minutes east, and 8 hours, 50 minutes west.

British Airways Club World

This aircraft does not feature first class, and of all the aircraft in their fleet this is the ideal plane (and configuration) to operate this ‘long(ish), thin’ route of 3,778 miles.

The only carrier currently operating this route non stop is PIA, which operates the route with a Boeing 777. We criticise British Airways business class regularly here at OMAAT, but from reading Ben’s review of PIA business class I think the BA option is the better choice of the two carriers!

PIA 777 business class
PIA 777 business class

British Airways is good at releasing premium award seats on new routes, and the flights have been loaded, so I can see four economy and two business class award seats available on most flights already (which British Airways guarantees on all flights).

Bottom line

I think this route will do well for British Airways.

They’re recommencing it with the right aircraft and frequency. The UK is home to the largest Pakistani community in Europe, so there should be plenty of demand for a non stop flight and the current competition’s product isn’t difficult to beat.

I wouldn’t be surprised to eventually see them also launch flights to Karachi and/or Lahore.

What do you make of British Airways returning to Pakistan?

Comments
  1. As someone with a lot of AA/BA miles who travels to ISB fairly regularly, this would be great news… if it wasn’t for BA’s ridiculous fees on award travel.

  2. BA stopped flying – as did many other airlines – due to the security situation in Pakistan, not the economics of the flight. Have there been changes to Islamabad airport to make it more secure? How many international airlines even fly to Karachi – one of the most violent cities in the world?

  3. It’s a shame they left Tehran due to the pressure from the US — that route’s cancellation was definitely not because it was underperforming — I flew the route 6 times and was upgraded 5 out of the 6 times to business class as a blue member (b/c of operational upgrades)

  4. It’s a shame they left Tehran due to the pressure from the US — that route’s cancellation was definitely not because it was underperforming — I flew the route 6 times and was upgraded 5 out of the 6 times to business class as a blue member (b/c of operational upgrades)

  5. @_ar: Errr… Karachi does not appear in the list of the 50 cities in the world with the highest murder rate. In comparison, the US has 5 cities on the list. Go figure.

  6. LHR-ISB and UK to Pakistan in general is not really a long and thin route. In 2017 an average of 340 people per day flew LHR-ISB, a 26% increase from 2016. In October 2018 that number had risen to 400 passengers per day.

  7. BA’s withdrawal was nothing to do with airport security.

    BA used to fly 6 weekly with B744s to ISB until the Marriott bombing in 2008 in which 58 people were murdered, including 6 British citizens and nearly 300 were injured.

  8. I feel sorry for the BA flight attendants on this route. I wouldn’t want to have to stay in one of the most dangerous countries in the world!

  9. BA’s previous withdrawal was also significantly down to concerns for crew safety during their layover in ISB. An en-route stop on the flight to slip the crew and avoid the ISB layover would seriously have affected the economics of the flight.
    Being able to fill a 747 as BA did is irrelevant if the yield isn’t there – all the more so now with lower cost alternatives from the ME3 carriers, albeit with a change of flight – and the terrorist attacks of 2008 pretty much put an end to a lot of the high yield business traffic that hitherto existed. Now the 787 offers just the right amount of capacity to restart the route and with careful revenue management it should prove to be very successful for BA.

  10. Pretty ridiculous that BA cares more about the almighty Pound than the safety of their flight crew. I would be livid if I had to work this flight.

  11. Competing against PIA makes crap BA look great by comparison. BA is still a crap airline, notwithstanding Ben’s recent brainwashing.

  12. @Jack I’m interested to understand your grounds for that statement? BA is definitely far from perfect but everything is relative… I would say that it is better than all three US carriers and a number of European carriers as well.

  13. Sorry but since when are Karachi and Islamabad among the most dangerous cities in the world?
    In recent years in particular, law and order is quite strong.

    There is a huge Pakistani community not only in London but also all over the UK, so I’m sure the demand to support such a flight is there. Although Qatar and Emirates are essentially the de facto flag carriers of Pakistan the nonstop BA option can be very attractive for those flying to the London area at least. And regardless of what one thinks of BA service, it is a more reliable option than PIA. When I was a kid, they always had at least one or two Urdu speaking flight attendants on the Karachi flights (which were on Tristars!) Those were the days.

    The 788 is probably the right sized plane to start off with but I can easily see this becoming a 77W or 747 if things work out.

  14. I’m waiting for the Partnership for Fair Skies to take credit, since this presumably would take business from the ME3. 😉

  15. Seriously Islamabad is safe as any major city, if not safer! Considering all the mass shootings we have in the U.S., should tourist and flight crews be afraid to come here?

  16. They didn’t stop the flight because of economics. It was because of safety.
    They pulled out after the Marriott attack at Islamabad. Though now it it much safer.
    I am a American of Pakistani decent and I go to Pakistan quite often. I recently went in August and the many security checkpoints on the roads were abandoned or dismantled while before there was security everywhere. It’s much better than before, though for outsiders it may not be too comfortable for them because of their history.

    @James – I wouldn’t call this route long and thin. Many Pakistani’s fly to London and the U.K.. I wouldn’t be surprised to see frequency increased. They most likely will expand into LHE and KHI because those are way bigger markets into LHR.

  17. For those talking about staffing, BA has a number of Pakistani Flight Attendants which will most likely operate these flights. Many of them have family there so it’s good for them in a way.

  18. To say that Islamabad is dangerous is absolute nonsense. I’ve been living here for eight years with my wife and four small kids and we’ve never had a single issue. This is a city, and country, of hospitality and kindness. Looking forward to trying this flight after eight years of transferring in the Gulf…

  19. Replying to Matt above, yes you’re absolutely right. Living in Islamabad I can attest to the fact that the security situation has changed by many folds.

    I can easily see the aircraft switching to 77W as demand is absolutely there and many people I know take PIA over Emirates/Etihad/Qatar because of the convenience of a non stop.

  20. I’m flying an etihad 777 tomorrow from Ord and I’d take ba any day on the 747 (as long as you can get upstairs and preferably a window seat).

  21. Saying Pakistan is as safe as India… does not seem like a good thing… I guess you can mix apples and pears

  22. BA787s don’t have the honeymoon center seats as displayed in the picture, but just a single center seat which is actually a quite good seat choice.

  23. Saying Pakistan is as safe as India is nonsense. The Pakistan national cricket team has had to play all of its “home” matches in the UAE for the last decade because Pakistan is too unsafe. (In 2009 terrorists attacked the visiting Sri Lankan team, killing a number of people and injuring 6 Sri Lankan cricketers.)

  24. @WestCoastGuy ya that’s a really good point… the reporting of murders in highly advanced countries is probably observed exactly the same in Karachi, Pakistan. I bet there are no shenanigans played there, and they most certainly are scrutinized to the same level, no doubt for sure case closed. Not even a question that the war-torn, utterly destroyed city is as accountable as the US and all of its oversight and watch organizations.

    Use your brain every once in awhile.

  25. I was sent to Lahore for work about 15 years ago. Such a beautiful city and I felt very safe walking around. The food is incredible and the people are lovely.

    PIA economy class on the other hand…

  26. I love the way people who’ve never been to Islamabad (or perhaps not even anywhere in South Asia) have an automatic assumption that it’s unsafe. It’s actually pretty safe in my experience.

    Statistically over the past few years, you are more likely to have been killed by terrorists in any of Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Orlando, Santa Fe etc than in Islamabad, but I don’t see any of the above posters saying “I wouldn’t go to Vegas”.

    [And yes, the full stop is after the inverted commas, because that’s how English language grammar works]

  27. This route would definitely work. People mostly take PIA because of it’s nonstop convenience. If BA operates the same route, people will fly them. If people are willing to do 1 stop then they take the Gulf Carriers. That’s why the ME3 have so many frequencies to the Indian subcontinent.

    If PIA was like Lufthansa or even BA, then the ME3 would lose many customers. I heard once that like 1/3 of Emirates passengers are going to or from the Indian Subcontinent. If there are many direct flights though, then the gulf carriers would be significantly smaller.

  28. Pakistan is the Nigeria of Asia, but there is no way a company like BA would start operations without being sure it was safe for employees, equipment and passengers. Also – this is Islamabad, not Karachi.

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