Published: Wed, July 17, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

First time since Balakot strike, Pakistan opens airspace for all civilian traffic

First time since Balakot strike, Pakistan opens airspace for all civilian traffic

Pakistan's airspace was reopened to civil aviation with immediate effect, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said on Tuesday, following months of restrictions imposed in the wake of a standoff with India earlier this year.

Hours later, India's Civil Aviation ministry said flights had started using the closed air routes, bringing great relief to airlines and air passengers. 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.

"Indian airline operators will start using normal routes through Pakistan airspace soon", the sources told PTI. In March, the neighbouring country partially opened its airspace but did not allow Indian flight to fly over its airspace.

Pakistan closed its airspace on February 26 after Indian jets targeted Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) "terrorist" in Balakot in Mansehra District Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan on February 14. "The Indian government approached us asking to open the airspace".

Air traffic along the country's eastern corridor, however, remained suspended until the announcement on Monday night, causing major losses to airlines flying between western destinations and India by causing them to reroute around Pakistan.

With Pakistan opening its airspace for all commercial airlines on July 16 morning, Air India said operation costs for one-way U.S. and Europe-bound flights are likely to come down by Rs 20 lakh and Rs 5 lakh, respectively.

Indian service providers - Air India, SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir - lost almost $80m (£63m) due to the closure of the Pakistani airpspace, India's aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri told the parliament recently.

Partial operations at Pakistani airports resumed once tensions eased but restrictions continued to affect many global carriers using Pakistani airspace. It had to take the longer route over the Arabian Sea and make a stop at Doha in Qatar for refuelling. A large of the losses - Rs 491 crore - has been made by the national carrier Air India, which has the largest worldwide network among the Indian carriers.

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