Pakistani expatriates returning to their jobs in Saudi Arabia have complained that the airlines are charging up to $400 to renew their tickets.
Azizur Rehman, a resident of Peshawar, told reporters that he had to pay Rs. 70,000 extra to get the ticket for Saudi Arabia.
A PIA official from Peshawar, however, claimed that it was the ticket renewal fee that was being charged by every airline, including the national carrier.
Initially, PIA had set a 100-dollar fee for flight change, which was revised thrice to settle at 400 dollars finally, he said, adding that the ticket prices now are around Rs. 121,000.
“The prices are high because these are special flights,” he said, hoping them to when scheduled flights resume operations.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the air ticket for Saudi Arabia was available for Rs. 40,000, but the prices skyrocketed during peak season.
The quota is allocated for the PIA office. We have provided tickets to all passengers who had contacted the office. We handled 400-500 passengers on a daily basis.
The situation is under control, the PIA official said, reasoning that the Saudi authorities have extended the visa expiry date till October 30.
Previously, the visas were expiring by September 30, and people were trying to get the ticket as early as possible.
When questioned about why PIA had charged the customers extra, the official noted that other airlines were charging up to Rs. 200,000, while PIA never charged more than Rs. 121,000 per ticket.
He admitted that the travel agents sold the tickets at a profit of Rs. 10,000 to 15,000.
Another passenger, Niaz Ali, from Charsadda, confirmed that the situation had improved, as he renewed his ticket by paying Rs. 34,000 in charges.
A travel agency owner, Momin Gul, said that they were not able to get tickets for their clients during the crisis.
He revealed that PIA’s online booking system remained out of order throughout the crisis, confirming the doubts that tickets were being blacked. He said that the situation has improved since Sunday.
The uploading of tickets on the booking system signifies that air transportation is returning to normalcy, he noted.