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

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

Pakistan opened its airspace for all civilian traffic onTuesday morning, sources said, effectively removing the ban on Indian flightsthat were not allowed to use majority of its airspace since the Balakot airstrikes 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 tore-route its various international flights due to the closure of the Pakistanairspace.

"Pakistan has permitted all airlines to fly through itsairspace from around 12.41 am today. Indian airline operators will start usingnormal routes through Pakistan airspace soon," the sources told PTI.

Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority issued a notice toairmen (NOTAM) at around 12.41 am Indian Standard Time, stating that "withimmediate effect Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic onpublished ATS (air traffic service) routes".

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

On its part, the IAF had announced on May 31 that alltemporary restrictions imposed on the Indian airspace post the Balakot strikehad been removed. However, it did not benefit most of the commercial airlinersand they were waiting for Pakistan to fully open its airspace.

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

The national carrier had lost Rs 491 crore till July 2 dueto the closure of the Pakistan airspace. Private airlines SpiceJet, IndiGo andGoAir 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 Puriin the Rajya Sabha on July 3.

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

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

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

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