The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority on Thursday extended the ban on the use of the airspace along its eastern border with India till June 28, PTI reported.
This is the third extension since the ban was put in place on February 26, when India had targetted a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot in Pakistan. The country has since opened only two out of 11 routes that go through South Pakistan. On March 27, Pakistan opened its airspace for all flights excluding those to New Delhi, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
“Pakistani airspace will be closed until June 28 along its eastern border with India,” Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority’s notice issued to airmen on Thursday said. “The Panjgoor airspace will remain open for overflying transit flights from the western side as Air India had already been using that airspace.”
An unidentified Pakistan government official told PTI that the “status quo” will remain as there was no official communication between the two countries on the opening up of the airspace.
On May 31, the Indian Air Force said it had removed the restrictions on all routes in the Indian airspace imposed on February 27, a day after its air strikes. India’s decision to open airspace was seen as a gesture for Pakistan to remove their airspace restrictions too and shorten flying distances between parts of South Asia and the west.
Earlier this week, Pakistan had reportedly “decided in principle” to allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plane to fly over its airspace for his official trip to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. But Modi’s plane flew via Oman and Iran instead.
The decision to close the airspace has led to flight cancellations, delays and soaring ticket prices as Pakistan lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor. Foreign carriers using Indian airspace have been been forced to take costly detours because they cannot fly over Pakistan and this mainly affects flights from Europe to Southeast Asia. National carrier Air India has also reportedly seen a daily loss of Rs 5 crore-Rs 7 crore due to the added fuel costs and longer routes.
Relations between India and Pakistan nosedived after militants belonging to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed outfit killed 40 security personnel in Pulwama on February 14. India retaliated by targeting a Jaish camp in Balakot in Pakistan with airstrikes. The airstrikes were described by the Indian government as a “non-military preemptive action”.