KHAPLU, Gilgit-Baltistan: The Pakistan International Airlines launched Sadpara Air Safari on Saturday to benefit the tourism industry in the country’s northern areas by offering passengers a spectacular view of some of the world’s tallest snowy mountains, glaciers and lakes.
Named after Pakistan’s iconic high-altitude mountaineer Muhammad Ali Sadpara, who tragically lost his life earlier this year while attempting a winter ascent of K2, the air safari will take tourists from Islamabad to Skardu and charge them a one-way fare of Rs24,000.
“Our flight will depart from the Islamabad International Airport and fly over K2, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum peaks, Deosai Plain and the famous Saif-ul-Malook Lake where every passenger will wonder at the beauty of the air safari from their personal window seat,” said the airline’s official statement.
While most flights to Gilgit-Baltistan offer a clear view of the world’s ninth tallest Nanga Parbat mountain, not many people get a glimpse of K2, also known as “Savage Mountain,” which hides in a remote corner of the region.
Hundreds of domestic and international tourists have already started visiting Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region in the north after the government eased the COVID-19 restrictions and opened the tourism sector on May 24.
“People living abroad usually fear security deficit while planning a trip to Pakistan,” PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafiz Sheikh recently told Arab News over the phone. “Many of them are not aware of the beautiful and scenic locations of the country. Once they experience the air safari and fly over these places, they will surely come back to explore them again.”
Sheikh informed that the airline would only sell window seats.
“The return flight will depart from Skardu after two hours of arrival,” he continued. “It will be entirely up to our passengers if they want to take the same flight back to Islamabad or prolong their trip to the region to experience more magical moments.”
Asghar Ali Porik, who leads the Pakistan Association of Tour Operators, applauded the initiative, saying it would positively impact Pakistan’s image.
“Allowing travelers to decide when to get back after experiencing the air safari will also help the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan since they mostly rely on tourism to make a living,” he said.
“Like the air safari, the authorities should also start a helicopter service for backpackers in Skardu because that is what most foreigners demand in the area. If the helicopter service is launched, it will also make things easier for international climbers who will be able to reach Concordia, K2’s basecamp, in a short span,” he added.