PIA Blues - Flight Delays
Due to uncertain weather, PIA flights to and from Skardu usually get delayed and sometimes even cancelled out. So, it is better to have a backup plan and a delay strategy in mind rather than ruining your vacations and then cursing me and the PIA.
Flight Delays: Usually, airport staff does not open check-in counters, especially at Islamabad Airport, until they get some clearances, and it may take an hour or two. This does not imply that you get relaxed, instead keep watching the happenings as there will be no formal announcements, and make sure that you are there with confirmed tickets as soon as the counter opens-up. Expect further delays after you get the boarding pass, but you can relax now, as there will be formal announcement as soon as the plane gets good for boarding. Regular travelers on this route are not bothered by flight delays and are only concerned if the flight operates at all.
Flight Cancellation: Flight cancellation usually occurs due to unfavorable landing/take-off parameters at Skardu Airport owing to bad weather. At times, the inbound airplane is even forced to return back to Islamabad while on its way to Skardu, and passengers are then advised to try their luck the next day. Previously cancelled flights may also create problems as PIA has a policy, on this route, to clear the previous backlogs. Flight cancellations are not unusual, especially during July and August when weather remains overcast, and warrant for an adequate backup plan.
Backup Plans: If you are inbound to Skardu then one obvious alternative is to either try your luck the next day or take the next available NATCO bus. Do not try the latter option during heavy rains as you may not like to get stuck up into a landslide during the long journey. And the last thing one wants during their vacations is keep visiting the PIA office and the airport on daily basis, so in my opinion don’t give the flight more than two tries and instead look for other nearby excursions, e.g. Naran Valley, etc. And if you are on your way back from Skardu, then be flexible for a delay of 1-3 days. It was overcast during our way back and I decided to come back by road, through Karakoram Highway, without waiting any further after getting reassurance that there are no heavy rains.
Unavailed PIA Tickets: Unavailed Skardu tickets are fully refundable, i.e. without any deduction, and can be claimed by visiting the nearest PIA office. The best is to start the process early in the morning, since it will take an hour or two for the PIA staff to complete all the formalities before they hand you over documents encashable at designated bank branched in the form of Pay Order in the name of the ticket holder. In order to be on the safe side, call PIA office to let them know your cancellation decision, however, this is not necessary.
At the end of a trek things can get a bit SILLY!
I guess the warning or danger is yourself (or just me?), after being completely removed from civilisation for such a period jokes between your trekking party can run for days - and get a bit out of hand.
Here I introduce our 'new firends' - the coffee tin girls, wait for it.......Ness, and Caffie (a la Nescafe)
ahem.....................I think I'll leave that one there.............
Roll-on the 1 start ratings! (If that!)