Virgin Atlantic Pakistan Flights Now On Sale

Filed Under: Virgin Atlantic

What a fascinating time in the industry. Rather than seeing airlines slowly add back suspended routes, we’re instead seeing airlines launch some surprising new routes.

A few weeks ago Virgin Atlantic announced plans to launch flights to Pakistan. Well, these flights are now on sale, and I wanted to share some observations I find to be interesting.

Virgin Atlantic’s new Pakistan routes

Virgin Atlantic will be launching flights between the UK and Pakistan as of December 2020. Not only will the airline start flying to Pakistan, but it will operate three routes, including:

  • London Heathrow to Islamabad
  • London Heathrow to Lahore
  • Manchester to Islamabad

These flights are now on sale, so I wanted to take a look at the schedules, equipment, and award redemption opportunities for these flights.

As you’ll see below, the Islamabad flights are clearly scheduled around connections to the US, while the Lahore flight isn’t. It’s also interesting how the Islamabad flights have identical schedules (with minor frequency variations).

Virgin Atlantic’s London to Islamabad flight

As of December 12, 2020, Virgin Atlantic will fly 3x weekly from London to Islamabad, with the following schedule:

London to Islamabad departing 12:30PM arriving 1:00AM (+1 day) [Mon, Wed, Sat]
Islamabad to London departing 3:30AM arriving 7:00AM [Tue, Thu, Sun]

Virgin Atlantic will use a Boeing 787-9 for the route. The flight will cover a distance of 3,750 miles in each direction, and is blocked at 7hr30min eastbound and 8hr30min westbound.

Virgin Atlantic’s London to Lahore flight

As of December 13, 2020, Virgin Atlantic will fly 4x weekly from London to Lahore, with the following schedule:

London to Lahore departing 9:50PM arriving 10:20AM (+1 day) [Tue, Thu, Fri, Sun]
Lahore to London departing 1:25PM arriving 5:00PM [Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat]

Virgin Atlantic will use a Boeing 787-9 for the route. The flight will cover a distance of 3,903 miles in each direction, and is blocked at 7hr30min eastbound and 8hr35min westbound.

Virgin Atlantic’s Manchester to Islamabad flight

As of December 10, 2020, Virgin Atlantic will fly 4x weekly from Manchester to Islamabad, with the following schedule:

Manchester to Islamabad departing 12:35PM arriving 1:00AM (+1 day) [Tue, Thu, Fri, Sun]
Islamabad to Manchester departing 3:30AM arriving 7:00AM [Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat]

Virgin Atlantic will use a Boeing 787-9 for the route. The flight will cover a distance of 3,819 miles in each direction, and is blocked at 7hr25min eastbound and 8hr30min westbound.

Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787-9

All three Pakistan routes will be operated by Virgin Atlantic’s fleet of Boeing 787-9s. Virgin’s 787-9s feature a total of 258 seats, including:

  • 31 business class seats
  • 35 premium economy seats
  • 192 economy seats

Unfortunately Virgin Atlantic’s 787-9s don’t feature the new Upper Class seats, which are exclusively available on A350-1000s. Rather the 787-9s have herringbone seats, in a 1-1-1 configuration, facing the aisle.

Virgin Atlantic 787-9 Upper Class

Redeeming miles on Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has plenty of award seats on its new flights to Pakistan, and award pricing through Flying Club is identical to Virgin Atlantic’s India flights. You can expect to pay the following number of miles one-way between the UK and Pakistan through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club:

  • Economy — 10,000 miles (off-peak), 20,000 miles (peak)
  • Premium economy — 17,500 miles (off-peak), 27,500 miles (peak)
  • Business class — 37,500 miles (off-peak), 47,500 miles (peak)

Those mileage amounts don’t include taxes and carrier imposed surcharges, which can be significant on Virgin Atlantic. For example, a one-way London to Islamabad business class flight comes with 371 GBP (~478 USD) in taxes, fees, and carrier surcharges.

At least if you’re originating in the US, the incremental surcharges aren’t that significant. A New York to London to Islamabad one-way business class flight will cost 85,000 miles plus 564 USD.

However, at that point you’d probably be better off booking through Delta SkyMiles, since you’d pay 95,000 miles plus 64 USD in taxes.

Why this Pakistan expansion is interesting

There are a few things I find especially interesting about this announcement.

First of all, Pakistan has in general been doing well as an aviation market in recent years. We’ve seen many airlines add or resume flights to Pakistan. Specifically from the UK, we saw British Airways resume flights to Islamabad in mid-2019. Now British Airways is also adding flights from London to Lahore as of October, clearly trying to beat Virgin Atlantic to the punch.

On top of that, keep in mind that Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has been having problems. The airline has been in the news for its “fake” pilots, and both European Union and United States regulators have issued bans against the airline in recent months.

Lastly, Virgin Atlantic is following the industry trend whereby airlines aren’t necessarily adding back the routes that they previously operated, but rather are adding new ones altogether. Not only is Virgin Atlantic axing many of its existing routes, but the airline was supposed to launch flights to Sao Paulo in March 2020, but plans for that have been scrapped altogether.

Adding routes to Pakistan makes sense with the current environment. There’s a huge Pakistani population in the UK, and travel for the purposes of visiting friends and relatives will be the first to recover.

Virgin Atlantic will launch three routes to Pakistan

Bottom line

Virgin Atlantic will be launching flights to Pakistan as of December 2020. Not only that, but the airline will be adding three routes, which is pretty cool to see.

Ultimately this service makes sense — travel for the purposes of visiting friends and family will recover first, and this route is ideal for that. Furthermore, Virgin Atlantic could face limited competition, given PIA’s current struggles.

If you’re considering booking one of these flights, they’re now on sale.

What do you make of Virgin Atlantic’s new Pakistan service?

Comments
  1. There are a lot of rich (Anglo-)Pakistani doctors, engineers, etc. Not to mention a huge anglophile culture in Pakistan. But I’d be shocked if there is enough business travelers for daily flights. And what will Virgin Atlantic do about alcohol and lounge access?

  2. If they need business travellers, they should consider KHI-LHR instead of MAN-ISB, its sounds like bit of afterthought for ignoring Karachi, the largest city and financial centre of Pakistan.

    It does however, sounds like a big opportunity for them because PIA can’t fly to EU/UK ,their largest longhaul market; at the same time, don’t forget Gulf carriers, they’re still alive.

  3. @FNT Delta Diamond I don’t think Pakistan bans alcohol on international flights the way that Saudi Arabia does. PIA is a dry airline, but foreign airlines should be able to serve alcohol inflight.

  4. There will be *endless* demand for these flights in Y.. you should see how many of the A380s that EK fill up in Y out of the UK connect onto Pakistan/the subcontinent at large… but I do agree with the suggestions that it will be a struggle up front to fill with business passengers…

  5. In addition to a large anglophile culture in Pakistan, there’s an even larger paedophile culture. I’m sure they’ll love the longhair flights and the seductive vibe of Virgin! Great addition to the network!!!

  6. There’s ordinarily a lot of VFR traffic year-round for UK-Pakistan travel. But the real competition for this traffic has been driven by the GCC3+TK and PIA.

  7. Karachi has more security problems than ISB and LHE, so maybe VS picked routes based on where it’s willing to have crew stay?

    KinkyKuwaiti, sounds like you’ve got some sick, kinky fantasies. Or are you also another extractive industries’ hanger-on who is on the EDL bandwagon?

  8. Interesting that British Airways has applied for flights to Lahore from Dec. Virgin Atlantic getting back at BA. I wonder if Richard Branson will hire local cabin crew like BA did in the 80s?

    https://www.dawn.com/news/1576604/british-airways-seeks-permission-to-operate-flights-to-lahore

    “First of all, Pakistan has in general been doing well as an aviation market in recent years. We’ve seen many airlines add or resume flights to Pakistan. Specifically from the UK, we saw British Airways resume flights to Pakistan in mid-2019.”

    British Airways as a sole European carrier returning to Islamabad is hardly “Pakistan has in general been doing well as an aviation market in recent years”. Lots of airlines European and Asian have departed Karachi for a couple of years now and have never returned. KLM, Lufthansa, Air France, Swissair (not Swiss), as well as British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines to name a few. You need to do some additional research it would appear instead of suggesting aviation in Pakistan is doing well as an aviation market

    Right now Pakistan specially Karachi has the monopoly of the ME3, with flights slowly reaching back to pre Corona virus days.

  9. @Marco,

    I am sure Ben was referring to the volume rather than number of airlines serving Pakistan.
    Look at the volumes that ME3 have. Add in Turkish, Oman Air, Gulf, Saudia and Kuwait. And they don’t fly empty planes. Most of the times its difficult to get a seat. Problem is that Pakistan is generally a leisure market.

  10. What hasn’t been mentioned yet is that Pakistan is really trying to increase its visitors. It recently radically reworked its visa program. A good 80 countries can get visa on arrival. Another 100 or so can get an evisa. The cost, at least for americans, has come down from $180 for single entry to $90 for 5 year multiple entry. It is also paying bloggers and vloggers to tour the country and promote it online. New routes goes in line with that expected growth in leisure travel to one of the world’s most beautiful, delicious and welcoming countries.

    I think it may also even manage to siphon off travelers from India, which is also beautiful and delicious, but has gotten an astonishing amount of bad press lately on many fronts. Plus, Pakistan’s evisa portal actually works. India’s is so ridiculously buggy my parents literally cried tears of frustration when they used it!

  11. London, along with Dubai, is the largest international O&D J market from major Pakistani cities, so it’s not a surprise they are running this. They’ll do fine in the summer and the winter holiday seasons, but may struggle a bit during the spring and fall.

    As long as PIA is not running, there is a market here and money to be made.

  12. Takhliq, the numbers on the ME3 would be overseas Pakistanis coming home. I doubt tourist numbers are going through the roof yet with nationals from other countries but hopefully it is getting there.

    Franklin, while I am aware vloggers are making a fortune on YouTube from their trips to Pakistan like Mark Weins, Trevor James, Eva Zubeck to name a few, I was not aware they were being paid to come. Nevertheless, they have truly brought Pakistan, the country, the people and it’s food to the world. Though not all reach the millions of views they have some excellent footage of the North of Pakistan. Check out the American family “Where the Jones” in Pakistan.

  13. Marco, your comment seems to suggest that I was critquing the bloggers. I am not. They are (or at lesat some of them, Eva among them) most certainly are paid, or have their trips sponsored, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m merely observing that the government is facilitating and encouraging visitors in a way it has not in many years. Having gone about 30 times over the last 15 years, I can say that it has never been easier than it is now.

  14. Franklin, I had nothing against your comments about vloggers being paid lol. I was just surprised. I read your post again and it appears the visa is a lot easier to get now.

    You say you’ve been there 30 times in 15 years that is like every six months. You have travelled more to Pakistan than most overseas Pakistanis have. I’m assuming you are a foreign national? So what do you think of Pakistan? 🙂

  15. Good decession of initiating UK to Pakistan. Why such a decession taken? Normally Emirate lift the load from Pakistan with short transit at Dubai. This short transit put a Pakistani origin pessrnger into humiliation as attitude of airline inflight and on ground is very bad. Pakistani choice is PIA, since PIA is band on the route pessenger to and from Karachi to any destination in the world will opt for airline that make pessenger to board the aircraft for destination without any transit. The planners had studied the route and business and created a threat to Emirates, itehad and Qatar. The of Middle Eastern airline will loose around 60% business on Pakistan origin and destination routes.

  16. @Marco – It’s a beautiful country with an amazing diversity of landscapes, extremely hospitable people, and incredible food. Its like an awsome mix of Arabic and Middle Eastern culture mixed with the amazing land, spices, and color of the Indian Subcontinent. Each city has something to offer. Islamabad is a city full of greenery (its also a planned city, like Washington DC but newer). Lahore is its cultural hub, where you experience the most authentic Pakistani culture. Karachi is its biggest city full of city life. However, due to some security issues in past years, it hasn’t been as popular for foreigners, but its making a rebound. And in the northern areas and Kashmir is where you find the incredible mountains and terrain. Mix that with some of the most hospitable people in the world and incredible food, its truly a country you want to visit. I’ve been lucky enough to visit it 8 times in the last decade 🙂

    @Lucky – I hope you go to Pakistan one day. And when you do, I’d love to tag along 😉

  17. Virgin will not be able to compete with the ME3 on the Pakistan routes until the UK relaxes its requirement for AirSideTransit visas for Pakistani citizens.

  18. Surprised that flights from BHX are not happening as the largest Pakistani / Kashmiri population in the UK resides here. They are the most frequent flyers. Also there is a considerable market for cargo all year round. So someone needs to revisit this plan.

  19. Somewhat strange choices (i.e. no Karachi, no Birmingham, and the emphasis on ISB when Islamabad/Rawalpindi has the smallest population of the three), however, the choice is solid insomuch as strong Y demand, especially in light of PIA’s issues. Most business travel will probably still opt for ME3 even if there’s a nonstop.

    On a separate note, it’s worth corroborating what others have said regarding Pakistan’s attractiveness as a destination – it’s truly an amazing country, and it’s one of my favorite places to visit (and I say this as an American). You’d be hard pressed to find a country with more natural beauty and more lovely, open and warm people. While there are of course intermittent security issues, it would be foolhardy to discount the wonder of Pakistan.

  20. @INS ViKrant

    You wrote “Pakistan Murtabad!”

    Now please show some guts and decency and explain it in plain English for those who are not familiar with it.

  21. This is mostly about getting lots of post Brexit labourers to replace the soon to be restricted Eastern Europeans.
    Brexit or not, the reality is that rapidly Ageing Britain needs more care workers and manual labourers from other sources.

  22. @Takhliq Khan

    ‘Pakistan Murtabad’ = down with Pakistan, specifically the political and military establishment.

    You guys should just rejoin or form a confederation with India and create a more secular nation. Why don’t you tell the rest of the room how poorly non-muslims / non-christians are treated in your country?

    To answer, there are frequent pogroms against hindus and bhuddists. Additionally, girls from those communities are commonly kidnapped, forced to convert to islam, and forced into marriages with older men.

    In 1955, well after partition, your country had a muslim population of about 80%, (religious minorities making up 20%). Today that figure is 98%. What happened to the others?

    Enjoy CPEC, I really hope you are able to improve the condition in your country. As is, tossing away your identity and adopting a fully islamic one has proven quite costly. I do hope this next generation changes things with the new prosperity, but I’m
    not holding my breath.

    My granddad stayed back in Lyallpur as a Sikh until 1970. He left everything behind and moved to the UK to start over, facing increasing threats, worrying about his daughters’ safety, and facing a boycott of his business by his former friends and neighbors.

    I’m sure Jinnah had a secular vision for your country but sadly he passed too soon to deliver it. Say thanks to Ayub and Zia.

    Respect to you and most Pakistanis, friend, but my phrase is very much guided at your government, not you or your friends and family. At the end of the day, external powers benefit at our expense at this conflict, and the English got everything they were playing for with the Radcliffe line.

  23. Can the editors please remove INS Vikrant’s hate speech up above. His first post translate as “Death to Pakistan.” That kind of langauge has absolutely no place on this blog.

  24. PIA used to do regular Birmingham (BHX) to Pakistan flights as there are many Pakistanis in the region. The city is not too far from MAN and VA is a much better airline so I guess these new routes will be welcome.

  25. @Franklin – translated literally, yes. In context, it generally means down with x, referring to a political entity. And you’ve got nothing to say about the explanation I posted, and the condition of minorities as a result of said political establishment?

    In India’s independence struggle, a common phrase was inqualaab zindabad, samrajavaad murtabad. – long live revolution, down with imperialism.

  26. @INS ViKrant,

    It’s quite evident that you are a graduate of RSS university as your mind and heart are filled with hate. I can educate you on all the points you made but this is not the proper forum. I will just give you one fact though just to prove how twisted your mind is.

    According to the 1951 census, hindu population of West Pakistan was about 1.2 percent which is about the same today. So try to digest this.

  27. @INS Vikrant
    You posted an unacceptable and rude phrase about Pakistan , as used by some Indians. This site is not about Indo=Pak politics and I suggest that if you continue, Ben should ban you .
    We do not need comments like yours .
    I have been all over Pakistan and India and love both countries over last 40 years , I have friends and ex colleagues in each.

  28. Still wondering How INS Vikrant (soon to go down under) can get away with vile & Hatred. Gandhi was a Great man and people like Vikrant killed him.People in India are getting tired of Hatred caused by Modi and his agents like Vikrant.

  29. This site is about aviation and travel related news so not sure what you “INS Vikrant” (named after a ship in the Indian navy that was sunk in 1971) are going on about??? Maybe your posting in the wrong group? Lucky please remove this chap as his comments are racist and hateful and have no relevance to the article.

  30. As an Indian, a plea to the mods to please remove INS Vikrant’s posts. It’s not merely that it’s hate speech but a hate troll who never stops posting and keeps goading people into responding to them.

  31. @AA – The original INS Vikrant served as the flagship of the Indian Navy from 1961-1997 and was then a museum before being scrapped just a few years ago. The current INS Vikrant is the flagship IAC-1 indigenous aircraft carrier currently undergoing trials and fit-out.

    As any follower of Indian Navy history knows well, the only ship lost in combat was INS Khukri in 1971. INS Vikrant acquitted itself rather well during the 1971 war, leading the Eastern Fleet blockade in the Bay of Bengal.

    Just some points of correction.

  32. @INS Vikrant

    “You guys should just rejoin or form a confederation with India and create a more secular nation. Why don’t you tell the rest of the room how poorly non-muslims / non-christians are treated in your country? ”

    Considering the way you guys treat your native Muslims, I am gonna have to pass on having my extended family be under your nations regime.

    Have you ever actually spoken to an Indian Christian? If you did I can assure you would not be talking about Pakistans treatment of minorities…

  33. @Ben, are you thinking of taking one of these flights? Would be interesting to hear your take on travel to Pakistan.

  34. @Ben ( Lucky )

    WOW, Once again your blog ( is it still a travel,aviation,hotel etc etc blog ??) is so politically and Geo-politically charged , that I no longer need my textbooks for my 101 political science course at Harvard.

  35. @INS Vikrant
    As quite a few have said, India’s (to be more accurate, the RSS’) treatment of Muslims (mostly impoverished, because most of the educated elite migrated to Pakistan in 1947) isn’t exactly too much better than Pakistan’s treatment of Hindus, Christians, etc… just look up the Babri Masjid case, the 2002 Gujarat riots, etc.

    Fellow Indian here.

  36. @Speedbird, Hotel

    How often does this happen in India but with religions reversed?

    https://m.timesofindia.com/world/pakistan/pak-hindu-bride-abducted-converted-to-islam-forcibly-married-to-muslim/articleshow/73659948.cms

    Gujrat riots were instigated by godra incident, not government. Nobody was harmed in Babri masjid, and there was a pending legal dispute on ownership at the time, much like Hagia Sofia and no denominations were allowed to worship there.

  37. Great step, Virgin Atlantic starting non-stop flights to UK from December 2020. That, however the carrier will include three routes, four week after week flights which is pretty cool to see.

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