Dubai to Sakardu | Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) launched a new travel option on Monday, connecting Dubai to Skardu directly, granting UAE residents the chance for a winter retreat just a brief three-and-a-half-hour flight away.
Operating from Dubai International Airport Terminal 1, the flights take off to Skardu on Saturdays and return on Tuesdays, making it an ideal weekend escape for local residents.
On Monday, August 14, at 4:15 am, the inaugural flight embarked on its journey from Dubai, an event that Khaleej Times was privileged to be a part of.
As the aircraft soared past Islamabad, the sky unveiled its crystal clarity, offering a unique spectacle of the majestic Himalayas, Karakoram, and Hindu Kush ranges. The awe-inspiring view included renowned peaks like Nanga Parbat and Rakaposhi, draped in pristine snow, standing tall above the clouds. The pilot enriched the experience with insightful commentary during this breathtaking passage.
Upon landing in Skardu, a serene town cocooned in tranquil beauty, a refreshing breeze and temperatures in the pleasant mid-20s Celsius greeted us. Skardu, perched at an elevation of 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) above sea level, stands adorned with lakes, waterfalls, and a historic fort. Prominent attractions encompass the Deosai National Park, Upper Kachura Lake, Manthokha Waterfalls, and the Kharpocho Fort. Notable accommodations, such as the Shangrila Resort, are scattered across the city.
With its snow-capped summits and winter temperatures dipping to -20°C, Skardu emerges as a sought-after destination for UAE residents in pursuit of cooler climates.
Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UAE, anticipates a transformative impact from this flight, acknowledging Pakistan’s tourism potential.
“This marks just the beginning. We possess breathtaking scenic beauty, warm-hearted people, and an array of delectable cuisines. We are on the cusp of expanding flight connections to Skardu, thereby positioning Pakistan as a prominent tourist hub. I’ve also proposed flights between the UAE and Gilgit and Chitral, but we face the challenge of runway size. I’ve recommended runway enhancements to accommodate widebody aircraft,” Tirmizi articulated in an interview with Khaleej Times during the momentous inaugural flight.
Furthermore, Tirmizi highlighted that while UAE tourists comprise a significant proportion, the objective is to attract a broader spectrum of nationalities. Efforts are being channeled towards facilitating tourist visas to foster increased footfall.
Aasim Imtiaz, PIA’s regional manager for the UAE, shared insights on the Airbus 320 deployment, boasting a capacity for 170 passengers. The initial response has been promising, with over 60% occupancy. While the majority of travelers are Pakistani, there’s a notable presence of foreign nationals seeking to explore the captivating Gilgit Baltistan region, renowned for its panoramic mountains and verdant landscapes.
Imtiaz revealed ongoing discussions with the Pakistan Hotel Federation to bolster tourist engagement from the UAE and Dubai, encompassing Skardu and its neighboring gems.