Pakistan opens airspace for all civilian traffic on Tuesday morning, sources said, effectively removing the ban on Indian flights that weren’t allowed to use the majority of its airspace since the Balakot airstrikes in February.
The move is expected to offer significant relief to Air India, which suffered an enormous loss of around Rs 491 crore because 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 can begin using traditional 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 time, stating that “with immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all kinds of traffic on published ATS (Air Traffic Service) routes.”
Pakistan had completely closed its airspace on February 26 when the Indian Air Force (IAF) stricken a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot in retaliation to the Pulwama attack on February 14. Since then, the neighboring country had only opened two routes, each of them passing through the southern region, of the total 11.
On its part, the IAF had declared on May 31 that all temporary restrictions imposed on the Indian airspace post the Balakot strike had been removed. However, it didn’t benefit most of the commercial airliners and they were looking ahead to Pakistan to completely open its airspace.
In India, the biggest pain was suffered by Air India that conducts numerous international flights from Delhi to Europe and also the United States of America.
The national carrier had lost Rs 491 crore until July 2 due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace. LCC airlines SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir lost Rs 30.73 crore, Rs 25.1 crore and Rs 2.1 crore, respectively, according to the information presented by Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in the Rajya Sabha on July 3rd.
Post the airstrike, Air India had to re-route, merge or suspend several of its international flights that connect India with European and United States of America cities.
IndiGo, India’s largest airline by domestic market share, was unable to start out direct flights from Delhi to Istanbul due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace. The LCC carrier started the Delhi-Istanbul flight in March. Till date, this IndiGo flight had to require the longer route over the Arabian Sea and make a stop at Doha in Qatar for refueling.