Pak Reopens Airspace Post Balakot: What Does It Mean for Airlines?
Indian flights were not allowed to use majority of Pakistan’s airspace since the Balakot air strike.
Normal air traffic operations between India and Pakistan resumed on Tuesday, 16 July, when Islamabad opened its airspace for all civilian flights, nearly four-and-half months after shutting it down following the Balakot air strikes in February.
Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) at 12:41 am (IST), stating that the country's airspace has been opened with immediate effect for all types of civil traffic on "published ATS (air traffic service) routes," news agency PTI reported.
Following Pakistan's move, India also issued a "revised NOTAM", announcing that normal air traffic operations have resumed between the two countries.
"Consequent to Pakistan issuing NOTAM to lift all airspace restrictions, relevant authorities have informed that India has also issued revised NOTAM immediately thereafter. With this, normal air traffic operations have resumed through all Flight Information Regions between India and Pakistan," a government source told PTI.
India's Civil Aviation Ministry also tweeted saying the flights had started using the closed air routes, bringing great relief to airlines and air passengers.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR AIRLINES?
Following the Balakot air strikes, Air India, among other airlines, had to re-route, merge or suspend many of its international flights that connect India with European and US cities.
IndiGo was unable to start direct flights from Delhi to Istanbul due to the closure of Pakistani airspace. It started flying the Delhi-Istanbul route in March, and had to take the longer route over the Arabian Sea and make a stop at Doha in Qatar for refuelling, the PTI report added.
Private airlines SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir lost Rs 30.73 crore, 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 3 July.
Pakistan’s move to reopen the airspace is expected to result in the reduction of flight times.
MAJOR RELIEF FOR AIR INDIA
Air India suffered a financial loss of around Rs 491 crore as it had to re-route various international flights due to the closure of Pakistani airspace, so this move is expected to bring major relief.
“We are looking into the matter, it will take two to three days for scheduling to use Pakistani airspace.”Air India official to ANI
Pakistan fully closed its airspace on 26 February after the Indian Air Force (IAF) struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot in retaliation for the Pulwama attack of 14 February. The neighbouring country only opened two of 11 routes after that, both passing through the southern region.
On its part, the IAF announced on 31 May that all temporary restrictions imposed on Indian airspace post the Balakot strike had been removed. However, this did not benefit most commercial airliners as they were waiting for Pakistan to fully open its airspace, PTI reported.
Pakistan Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat had earlier informed a parliamentary panel that Pakistan would not remove the restriction until India removed its jets from forward bases.
(With inputs from PTI)
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