Pakistan reopens airspace to civil aviation, ends India standoff
16 July 2019
Pakistan today re-opened its airspace to civil aviation, lifting restrictions imposed after clashes with India, allowing airlines to overfly the country and save millions of dollars spent on lengthy detours.
Pakistan’s civil aviation authority issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) at 12.41 am (India time) which said, “with immediate effect Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (air traffic service) routes.”
Air India’s San Francisco (SFO)-Delhi service AI 184 — one of the longest nonstops globally — was among the several international flights winging their way to Delhi.
Over flights using Pakistan airspace will reduce the distance between Southeast Asia and north India, especially Delhi, from early morning today when Pakistan finally reopened its airspace for overflying after 138 days.
This means all westward flights from Delhi will see travel times reduced by up to four hours and Air India’s flights to US will again be nonstop
The decision by Pakistan, which lies along an important aviation corridor, offers a welcome break for international airlines.
The restrictions, imposed in February, affected hundreds of commercial and cargo flights each day, adding to flight time for passengers and fuel costs for airlines.
India’s ministry of civil aviation said that after the NOTAMS, there were no further restrictions on airspace in either country.
“Flights have started using the closed air routes, bringing a significant relief for airlines,” it said.
Pakistan closed its airspace after an attack by a Pakistan-based militant group in Indian-controlled Kashmir led to an armed standoff between the nuclear-armed powers.
Flights between Europe and Southeast Asia were forced further south, adding as much as 450 km (280 miles) to some journeys and forcing the cancellation of some routes.
“Pakistan being open again makes the traditional and preferred Europe-Asia route through Afghanistan, Pakistan and onwards to India available again, and means that city pairs abandoned after the February shutdown will likely be restarted,” OPSGROUP, which provides guidance to operators, said in a note.
Indian operators were badly affected by the shutdown. An Air India spokesman said the company would take about a week to rework its schedule and come up with a plan to operate its flights over Pakistan.
Air India was the worst suffer reporting losses of Rs491 crore, aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri told parliamentarians this month. It is the only Indian carrier with flights to Europe and the US that had to take longer routes.
SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir have reported losses to the tune of Rs30.7 crore, Rs 25.1 crore and Rs 2.1 crore, respectively.