A group of officials from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration is heading to Pakistan on July 17 and 18 at the request of the Pakistani government, which is hoping to launch nonstop flights to New York on Pakistan International Airlines.
The officials will inspect and audit the new Islamabad International Airport for security measures.
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If approved, it would represent a dramatic change both politically and from an aviation standpoint. The U.S. and Pakistan continue to work past previously strained relations, and a nonstop flight from Islamabad to New York would considerably shorten travel between the two countries.
Though PIA has been flying to the U.S. for almost 60 years, it suspended operations in October of 2017 after the TSA denied direct entry into the U.S. over security concerns. That is, Pakistan International Airlines was forced to first fly into a TSA-cleared international airport – usually Barcelona, Spain or Manchester, England – before continuing on to New York.
That proved to be a detriment financially to the airline, and an issue for travelers. A flight from Islamabad to New York is about 15-16 hours; having to stop on a layover and, in many cases, switching to another airline, forced some passengers into a 24-hour travel journey.
What makes Pakistan more confident of resuming direct flights is the new airport in Islamabad and increased diligence in security. British Airways, for instance, has resumed its direct flights to Islamabad.
Whether PIA is able to launch its non-stops to New York will hinge on the report from TSA officials after their visit later this month.