Pakistan opens airspace to Indian aircraft for the first time since Balakot strikes
Both countries had placed restrictions in their airspace in February, but India removed its curbs on May 31.
Pakistan opened its airspace for all civilian traffic early on Tuesday after months of closure for Indian flights. In a notice to airmen issued around 12.41 am Indian time, the Civil Aviation Authority said: “With immediate effect Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (air traffic service) routes”.
“Indian airline operators will start using normal routes through Pakistan airspace soon,” unidentified officials told PTI.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation also tweeted that flight routes via Pakistan were now open. “After cancellation of NOTAMS by Pakistan and India in the early hours today , there are no restrictions on airspaces of both countries, flights have started using the closed air routes, bringing a significant relief for airlines,” it said.
Air India flights AI 184 and AI 174 from San Francisco to Delhi landed in India via Pakistani airspace, Air India director (operations) said, according to ANI.
Pakistan had closed its airspace to Indian aircraft on February 26 after the Indian Air Force’s airstrikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Balakot. The country has opened only two routes going through southern Pakistan so far, out of 11. India had also imposed similar restrictions in its airspace but removed them on May 31, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took oath for a second time.
Global flight tracking service FlightRadar24 tweeted on Tuesday morning: “A few hours ago, Pakistan reopened its airspace to all commercial traffic. Some fights have begun to revert to routings used prior to 27 February already.”
Earlier this month, India’s Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said that Indian airlines had suffered a loss of at least Rs 549 crore due to Pakistan’s airspace closure since February 27. Puri said that closing the airspace was a “unilateral measure” and that it was up to Islamabad to lift the ban.
The data provided by Puri to the Rajya Sabha showed that private airline SpiceJet had lost Rs 30.73 crore till June 20, IndiGo had lost Rs 25.1 crore till May 31, and GoAir Rs 2.1 crore till June 20, while Air India incurred a loss of Rs 491 crore as of July 2. The airlines had to re-route various international flights due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace.
Last week, Pakistan Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat had said the country would not open its airspace for Indian commercial flights until New Delhi removed fighter planes from forward bases.
In June, India’s Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said Pakistan’s decision to close its airspace was “their problem”, and pointed out that the Indian Air Force had never stopped civilian traffic.