Gilgit (by Air-Cdre (r) Naunehal Shah): The government’s plan to induct 28 new aircraft in PIA has given hope of the national carrier’s revival, especially to the residents of remote areas like Gilgit-Baltistan. Gilgit-Baltistan is physically separated from the rest of the country by some of the world’s highest mountain peaks. The Karakoram Highway had reduced the hardship of the people to some extent, but this critical artery is in severe disrepair and it is usual for travellers to be stranded due to landslides.
The other option of travelling to Gilgit and Skardu was flying by PIA. Due to the inadequate number of PIA flights to Gilgit and Baltistan and a total lack of management this has no longer been left as an option that one can count on. The return economy class fare between Islamabad and Gilgit is about Rs15,000/passenger. You try and you will never be able to secure a seat to Gilgit or back at this price. But if you pay a premium of Rs2,000 per ticket one way, you can fly the very next day. I brought this shameful practice in the notice of the highest authorities in PIA and it was disappointingly brushed aside. It was reported that the prime minister during his first visit to Gilgit after assuming power had announced to introduce three daily flights to Gilgit from March 2014. I hope the authorities will make the PM’s assurance come true and help reduce the hardships of the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan. With the acquisition of the four new ATR 72-500 aircraft travel to Gilgit is expected to improve.