Pakistan opens airspace for all civilian traffic; Indian flights to operate soon

Pakistan opened its airspace for all civilian traffic on
Tuesday morning, sources said, effectively removing the ban on Indian flights
that were not allowed to use majority of its airspace since the Balakot air
strikes in February.

The move is expected to give a major relief to Air India,
which suffered a huge financial loss of around Rs 491 crore as it had to
re-route its various international flights due to the closure of the Pakistan
airspace.

“Pakistan has permitted all airlines to fly through its
airspace from around 12.41 am today. Indian airline operators will start using
normal routes through Pakistan airspace soon,” the sources told PTI.

Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority issued a notice to
airmen (NOTAM) at around 12.41 am Indian Standard Time, stating that “with
immediate effect Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on
published ATS (air traffic service) routes”.

Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on February 26 after
the Indian Air Force (IAF) struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) training camp in
Balakot in retaliation to the Pulwama attack on February 14. Since then, the
neighbouring country had only opened two routes, both of them passing through
the southern region, of the total 11.

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

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In India, the biggest pain was suffered by Air India that
conducts various international flights from Delhi to Europe and the US.

The national carrier had lost Rs 491 crore till July 2 due
to the closure of the Pakistan airspace. Private airlines SpiceJet, IndiGo and
GoAir lost Rs 30.73 crore, Rs 25.1 crore and Rs 2.1 crore, respectively,
according to the data presented by Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri
in the Rajya Sabha on July 3.

Post the air strike, Air India had to re-route, merge or
suspend many of its international flights that connect India with European and
US cities.

IndiGo, India’s largest airline by domestic market share,
was unable to start direct flights from Delhi to Istanbul due to the closure of
the Pakistan airspace.

The low-cost carrier started the Delhi-Istanbul flight in
March. Till date, this IndiGo flight had to take the longer route over the
Arabian Sea and make a stop at Doha in Qatar for refuelling.

-GK

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