Over 15,000 Pakistani Umrah pilgrims repatriated from Saudi Arabia amid pandemic

Pakistani umrah pilgirms leaving for Pakistan from Jeddah airport on April 15, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Saudi Consulate Jeddah)
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Updated 29 May 2020

Over 15,000 Pakistani Umrah pilgrims repatriated from Saudi Arabia amid pandemic

  • 15,470 Pakistani pilgrims were brought back home on special flights between March 15 and April 18
  • Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has so far facilitated the return of 450,000 pilgrims

ISLAMABAD: Over 15,000 Pakistani pilgrims who were on Umrah in Saudi Arabia when the coronavirus pandemic broke out have already been repatriated, as the kingdom continues to facilitate the return of foreigners to their respective countries, officials told Arab News on Friday.
A large number of international pilgrims found themselves stranded in Saudi Arabia after it suspended international flight operations on March 15 due to the outbreak.
The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has so far facilitated the return of 450,000 pilgrims, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Friday. Among the returnees,15,470 were Pakistani nationals.
“From March 15 till April 18, 2020, 15,470 Umrah pilgrims were repatriated from Saudi Arabia after the suspension of flight operations due to COVID-19,” the spokesman of the Pakistani Consulate General in Jeddah, Arshad Munir, told Arab News.
He explained that the special flights which since April 18 have been bringing other Pakistani nationals back home are for persons stranded in the kingdom not in relation to the pilgrimage.
According to SPA, over 60,000 pilgrims were sent back to their home countries on special flights during the recent five-day Eid Al-Fitr holiday, while another 40,000 were brought to Makkah from Madinah to complete their rituals.
Thousands of others who remain unable to return to their countries amid coronavirus lockdowns, have been hosted by the ministry, SPA said.
The SPA report noted that the suspension of Umrah and international flights would continue until further notice.


Abu Dhabi's Etihad auditing Pakistan-issued pilot licences amid concerns

Updated 51 min 41 sec ago

Abu Dhabi's Etihad auditing Pakistan-issued pilot licences amid concerns

  • Says it is trying to verify the qualifications and licenses of the Pakistani pilots employed by the airlines
  • UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement it was in contact with authorities in Pakistan over the issue 

DUBAI: Etihad Airways is auditing its pilots with Pakistan-issued licenses, the Abu Dhabi airline said on Thursday.
Last month, Pakistan grounded 262 pilots amid suspicions they cheated on their examinations to operate aircraft, and the United Arab Emirates aviation regulator has said it was reviewing licenses issued in the country.
"We have worked closely with the (UAE) General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) to verify the qualifications and licenses of the Pakistani pilots employed by Etihad," an Etihad spokeswoman told Reuters.
"While we can confirm the authenticity of these pilots, we are however carrying out further precautionary due diligence with an additional audit."
The GCAA in a statement released earlier on Thursday said it was reviewing its records to ensure no "suspicious licences issued by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority" had entered its system.
The GCAA said it was in contact with Pakistani authorities but did not indicate whether it had taken any preliminary action against pilots with licences issued in the country.
On Tuesday, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) suspended two Pakistani airlines' authorization to fly to the bloc for six months.
A day earlier Vietnam announced that it was grounding all 12 Pakistani pilots working in the country.