Pakistan’s national flag carrier PIA has resumed direct flights between Lahore and Iran’s second largest city of Mashhad five years after the airline suspended the route over financial problems.
The Pakistan International Airlines carried out the first flight between Lahore and Mashhad on Wednesday night, according to a report by Iran’s IRIB News on Thursday.
The report cited a statement by the PIA showing that the airline will soon increase its flights to Mashhad by launching another flight to the city from the port of Karachi in southern Pakistan on January 1, 2022.
PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan told local Pakistani media on Thursday that the restoration of the Lahore-Mashhad route is meant to facilitate the travel of Shia Muslims in the country to holy sites in Iran.
Mashhad, located in northeastern Iran, is home to the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS), the eighth Shia Imam. The shrine is visited by millions of people every month, including pilgrims from countries with sizable Shia population, including Iraq, Azerbaijan and Pakistan.
The PIA had previously halted flights between Lahore and Mashhad in 2013 and 2017, citing financial losses.
The decision to restore the route came more than a week after Iran’s Taban Airlines, which is based in Mashhad, resumed its flights from the city to Lahore in northern Pakistan.
Taban’s PR office told the Fars news agency that flights on the route had started since December 20.
The airline said the route was restored following talks between Pakistani authorities and officials in the Iranian foreign ministry.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency said air travel between Iran and Pakistan will increase in the near future as Iran’s Mahan Airlines is planning to launch flights from the capital Tehran and Mashhad to Lahore. That will come on top of a weekly flight currently operated by flag carrier Iran Air between Tehran and Karachi.