New Delhi: Around 140 days after the Balakot Strike, Pakistan for the first time opened its airspace for all civilian traffic including that from India on Tuesday.
Pak removed the ban on Indian flights that were not allowed to use a majority of its airspace since the Balakot air strikes in February, sources told PTI. The move made by Pak is a relief to Air India, which had to re-route its International Flights due to closed airspace in Pakistan and suffered a major financial loss of 491 Crore.
“Pakistan has permitted all airlines to fly through its airspace from around 12:41 am today. Indian airline operators will start using normal routes through Pakistan airspace soon,” the sources told PTI.
Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority issued a notice to Airmen around 12:41 am that “with immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published Air Traffic Service routes”.
Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force (IAF) struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot in retaliation to the Pulwama attack on February 14.
Since then, Pakistan had only opened two routes out of the 11, both of them passing through the southern region.
The IAF had announced on May 31 that all the temporary restrictions imposed on the Indian airspace after the Balakot strike has been removed. This move did not do much for the commercial airlines and the latter was waiting for Pakistan to fully remove restrictions and open the airspace.
Loss due to the closure of Pakistani Airspace
Air India was the biggest sufferer during this crisis due to its various flights from Delhi to the US and Europe. Private airlines SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir lost Rs. 30.73 crores, Rs. 25.1 crore and Rs. 2.1 crore, respectively, according to data presented by Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in the Rajya Sabha on July 3.
Indigo airlines were unable to start direct flights from Delhi to Istanbul due to the closed airspace. Till date, it had to take a longer route over the Arabian Sea and make a stop at Doha in Qatar for refuelling.
Indigo started the Delhi-Istanbul flight in March this year.