New flights will make trips 'a breeze'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 March, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 March, 1999, 12:00am

Direct flights from Hong Kong to Pakistan, priced at $4,600, will be available from the first week of June.

The twice-weekly service, being inaugurated by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), would be more convenient and comfortable than current connections, Mansoor Mela, the flag-carrier's SAR manager, said.

Until now, passengers have been forced to endure lengthy delays in transit at Bangkok to connect to Pakistan flights.

'It can be a real hassle,' Mr Mela said. 'Passengers can be stuck in transit for six hours on the way out to Pakistan, then stranded overnight in Bangkok on the return journey. It's not too bad for someone travelling alone, but for those with families it is very difficult.' The new service will be a breeze by comparison. Departure times have not been confirmed, but PIA has applied for an afternoon take-off slot for the Monday flight to Karachi - which would arrive in the evening.

On the Thursday service to Lahore and Islamabad, the carrier hopes for an evening take-off for an overnight flight and an early morning arrival.

'A lot of our passengers on this route live in villages outside the cities. They prefer the morning arrival so they can catch public transport to their homes.

'If that flight arrived in the evening, they would probably be stuck in Lahore or Islamabad overnight,' Mr Mela said.

Return fares on the new service aboard a 184-seat Airbus A310 will be around $4,600 to Karachi and $4,800 to Lahore-Islamabad.

'I'm proposing a competitive rate,' Mr Mela said. Although there are only about 20,000 Pakistani residents in the SAR, he is confident the service will be popular.

'We estimate there are around 18,000 regular travellers a year between Hong Kong and Pakistan,' he said.

'Hong Kong is our third-largest trading partner at the moment, so there's a reasonably large number of business travellers.' Cargo is also expected to be a money- spinner. 'We are optimistic about the freight prospects,' Mr Mela said. 'A lot of textiles, chemicals, watches and electrical goods are exported to Pakistan.

'The return flights will be a lot more convenient for exporters of perishables, like live crabs, delicate fruit such as mangoes and vegetables like okra which are popular with the Pakistani and Indian communities.

'Once the direct flights take-off, I'm sure we will see a lot more fresh Pakistani produce bound for Hong Kong.

' I think there's definitely a niche market here and, although the economy is down at the moment, we are optimistic about the future. This is a resilient city and one sure to bounce back.' The new service is encouraging news for Chek Lap Kok.

'Before we signed the Flight Services Agreement, we had a look at Macau and considered it for cargo,' Mr Mela said.

'But now that we have SAR landing rights, it is doubtful that we will go there.'