Virgin halts flights to Pakistan, pivoting focus to other markets

ISLAMABAD: Virgin Atlantic has announced the suspension of its services to Pakistan. The decision comes after the airline reviewed its network and made some changes as it continues to ramp up its flying programme in 2023.

In a press statement, the airline said it would no longer operate flights between London and Lahore and Islamabad.

Virgin launched new flights from Manchester and Heathrow to Pakistan in December 2020, becoming the second western carrier after British Airways to serve destinations in the country.

At the time, the airline’s US-focused network had been heavily disrupted by pandemic restrictions. However, as the airline has gradually rebuilt its transatlantic programme, adding routes to Austin and Tampa, it has now made the decision to suspend its Pakistan services.

Instead, it plans to restore its London-Shanghai service from May, following China’s easing of coronavirus restrictions.

”As we continue to ramp up our flying programme in 2023, we’ve taken the opportunity to review our entire network and decided to make a few changes,” the airline said. “Following this review, it is with regret that we’ve taken the difficult decision to suspend our services between London Heathrow and Pakistan.”

A spokesperson for the company acknowledged that the decision was not taken lightly and apologised for any inconvenience caused.

The airline suspended its Manchester service to Islamabad in winter.

Virgin will, however, continue to operate flights to Lahore until May 1 and to Islamabad until July 9. The airline will provide options such as rebooking or a full refund to affected customers, according to the statement.

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MTS Russia Acquires 100% Stake in Online Hotel Booking Firm

Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), Russia’s largest mobile operator and a leading provider of media and digital services, announced the acquisition of a 100% stake in Bronevik Online and Bronevik Company (Bronevik Group, one of the market leaders in online hotel booking). The acquisition is aimed at developing a new business line, MTS Travel, in the tourism industry.

MTS has started to develop its new business line through MTS Travel, a recently registered wholly owned subsidiary. MTS Travel will offer a service for booking hotels, other accommodation and tickets; provide tourist and excursion services; arrange the rental and leasing of vehicles, as well as the rental of recreation equipment; and organize sports activities.

MTS President and CEO Viacheslav Nikolaev
Tourism, business travel and hospitality in Russia are developing dynamically, and we expect these markets to grow rapidly in the coming years. For this reason, we are carving out a separate business vertical called MTS Travel—which will complement other areas of our business—in order to develop it in an integrated manner through one of the leaders in the Russian online hotel booking market. We expect that the combined expertise of MTS and Bronevik as well as the acquired companies’ access to big data technologies and artificial intelligence alongside MTS’s sales channels and financial opportunities will enable us to offer customers qualitatively new services for booking and accommodation as well organizing recreational activities and travel opportunities.

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