Oman


Muscat passengers safe after Karachi airport terror attack


Pakistani passengers wait outside the departure lounge of the airport during a strike by employees of the flagship Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) in Karachi in this file photo taken on February 8. Heavily armed militants attacked Pakistan's busiest airport in the southern city of Karachi June 8, 2014 night, killing at least 29 people as flights were suspended and the army was called in, officials said. Photo - Asif Hassan/AFP

Muscat: The terrorist attack at Karachi airport led to many flights from Oman being cancelled on Monday, leading to major changes in the travel plans of hundreds of passengers set for connecting flights from Karachi. However, no harm has been reported to any passenger, including 67 Omanis, of the Thai Airways' flight that landed there minutes before the attack started on Sunday night.

All passengers in the Thai Airways' flight No. TG508 from Muscat, that landed at Karachi airport at 10:50 pm Sunday minutes before the terrorist attack, are completely safe and unhurt.

The flight was to depart for Bangkok at 11:50 pm but could not as the airport was temporarily closed. However, it finally took off at 6 pm Monday evening (local time) as Karachi airport resumed normal operations, with all 77 passengers safe and sound.

"TG508 is scheduled to reach Bangkok at 1.30 am local time with all Oman passengers on board. All Thai Airways flights to Karachi will now operate as scheduled," an airline official called Times of Oman office to confirm the latest news.

Earlier, the dangerous situation at Karachi airport had led to a sleepless night for those concerned about the safety of their passengers from Oman.

"We haven't slept the whole night but thankfully, all the passengers as well as the crew are safe and waiting to proceed to their homes or onward journey to Bangkok," said Joseph Abi Hanna, Thai Sales Manager told Times of Oman on Monday.

"As the flight was unable to depart for Bangkok, Thai escorted 296 passengers, including three Thai nationals and 16 flight crew members, to rest in the highly secure airport lounge. Thai's airplane remains parked at the airport and is safe under high security," said a Thai Airways statement to Times of Oman on Monday.

While the 191 Pakistani passengers were believed to have been allowed to leave the airport after some time, the remaining 77 passengers were still at the airport lounge, waiting to proceed to Bangkok.

When the Thai Airways flight No. TG508 landed at Karachi at 11 pm on Sunday night, none of its 296 passengers onboard knew they were in for a long night at Jinnah International Airport. Hoping to come out of the flight quickly to meet their families waiting outside or proceed to their onward journey, they were asked to remain inside the airplane and stayed there for the next two hours before being escorted to the transit lounge of the airport under the tight security of Pakistani Army personnel.

Just a few meters away from the gun battle taking place at the old terminal, these passengers could clearly count themselves lucky to have been kept from the harm's way, thanks to the timely and decisive military action by the Pakistani security forces who did not allow the terrorists to enter the new terminal of the main Airport, which had many domestic and international flights arriving and departing. The fact that the terrorists carried dry food items with them gives a clear hint of their intention of prolonged stay and possibly unimaginable damage to life and property.

"We haven't slept the whole night but thankfully, all the passengers as well as the crew are safe and waiting to proceed to their homes or onward journey to Bangkok," Joseph Abi Hanna, Thai Sales Manager told Times of Oman on Monday.

Other airlines operating to Karachi sector had to cancel their flights on Monday.

"An Oman Air flight, scheduled to depart for Karachi at 8.40 am on Monday was cancelled due to the situation at the Karachi airport. Gulf Air and Etihad Airways flights from Muscat via Bahrain and Abu Dhabi respectively were also cancelled," said Ansar Shahzad, Manager Ittefaq Travel and Tourism.

"Many passengers bound for Pakistani cities like Faisalabad and Multan opt for PIA's connecting flights from Karachi. But now we are getting calls from our customers asking direct flights to Lahore instead of Karachi. Some residents of Karachi have postponed their travel plans for a few days," he added.

An Oman Air statement said that all subsequent flights will operate as scheduled.

"Following the cancellation of flight WY 323 from Muscat to Karachi on June 9, Oman Air has announced that all subsequent flights to the destination are expected to operate as scheduled. Oman Air regrets the inconvenience caused to its valued passengers by the earlier cancellation. The airline is closely monitoring events in Karachi and will update passengers if the situation changes," it added.

Pakistani International Airline had no flight scheduled on Monday while Air Blue and Shaheen Air do not operate on Muscat-Karachi sector.

Karachi airport is Pakistan's largest domestic and international airport with approximately 50,000 passengers using it every day. It has two runways with the capacity to handle 15 flights per hour and accommodates simultaneous landing and take-off. Its vast parking area can accommodate as many as 42 aircraft.

To get in touch with the reporter: shahzad@timesofoman.com

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