Virgin Atlantic Cargo will be launching flights between the UK and Pakistan in December 2020, supporting growing trade volumes between exporters and importers in both countries.
Virgin Atlantic will operate three new routes; London Heathrow to Lahore; London Heathrow to Islamabad as well as Manchester to Islamabad.
Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer at Virgin Atlantic, said: “With travel restrictions remaining in place for many destinations around the world, we’re continually evaluating our network, looking at customer demand and where there are opportunities to launch new services.
“Pakistan is an extremely exciting opportunity for us – it boasts one of the largest foreign-born populations in both the UK and the US and as people start to travel to visit loved ones, we’re anticipating the demand to visit friends and relatives will increase post Covid-19. Both Lahore and Islamabad are popular year-round destinations and we look forward to welcoming travellers onboard as demand for leisure and business travel gradually increases to the region. The growth in trade between both countries also offers great potential for our cargo customers too.”
Trade in goods and services between the UK and Pakistan is worth some £3.3 billion a year, rising 4.7 per cent year-on-year in 2019, with high volumes of goods such as textiles, apparel and machinery. The UK is the third biggest global market for Pakistani exporters after the US and China and their main trade lane in Europe.
Pakistan has the seventh largest diaspora in the world and the new services aim to respond to the large, fast-growing demand to visit friends and relatives (VFR) from customers in the UK and the US, as well as capturing demand for business travel and trade to the region as global economies gradually recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cargo customers in Pakistan will also benefit from fast connections to prime markets in the US as well as in Europe and Africa via London Heathrow. Virgin Atlantic Cargo also expects healthy demand for capacity into Pakistan from customers across its international network.
Virgin Atlantic restarted passenger flying on 20 July after a three-month hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic and is currently operating flights to New York JFK, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Barbados and Miami with further routes being added throughout September and October. In addition, Virgin Atlantic Cargo continues to offer cargo-only flights to Atlanta, Brussels, Chicago, Delhi, Dublin, Johannesburg, Lagos, Milan, Mumbai and Tel Aviv.
Dominic Kennedy, managing director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo, added: “The import and export market for goods between the UK and Pakistan is extremely healthy, so we’re delighted to be offering our cargo customers another prime route with such positive growth opportunities. This is supported by our fast connections over London to Europe, the US and Africa, and this potential will become even greater as Virgin Atlantic continues to reintroduce more routes and frequencies as part of our Covid recovery plan.”