Thursday, 22 August, 2019


Pakistan reopens airspace after India standoff

Pakistan opens airspace post Balakot strikes relief for Air India The Islamabad International Airport. File
Bennie Garza | 16 July, 2019, 15:31

Pakistan has lifted all airspace restrictions for civilian flights, reopening a key transit air corridor over its territory nearly five months after closing it in the wake of a military standoff with its eastern neighbour, India.

Pakistan on Tuesday fully reopened its airspace for all civilian traffic, ending months of restrictions affecting major worldwide routes including from India after clashes between the nuclear-armed rivals brought them to the brink of war.

An Air India spokesman said the company would take about a week to rework its schedule and come up with a plan to operate its flights over Pakistan. "With this, normal air traffic operations have resumed through all Flight Information Regions between India and Pakistan", a government source said.

Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force (IAF) struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot in retaliation to the Pulwama attack on February 14.

However, it did not benefit most of the commercial airliners and they were waiting for Pakistan to fully open its airspace.

In a big respite for airlines as well as passengers flying towards the west of India, the Pakistani airspace is open for commercial airlines after a gap of about five months.

Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) at 12.41 am (IST), stating that the country's airspace has been opened with immediate effect for all types of civil traffic on "published ATS (air traffic service) routes". AI, which has been losing crores daily due to the airspace closure since February 27 and its flights to and from the west taking long routes, acted swiftly.

On its part, the IAF had announced on May 31 that all temporary restrictions imposed on the Indian airspace post the Balakot strike had been removed. Out of the total 11 air routes in Pakistan's territory, it has opened up two since March.

Air India suffered losses of 4.91 billion rupees ($71.6 million), India's aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri told lawmakers this month.

A CAA spokesman confirmed to AFP that the eastern airspace along the border with India had been reopened.

The low-priced carrier started flying the Delhi-Istanbul route in March.

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