Islamabad, Jun 28: Pakistan has extended its eastern airspace ban for commercial flights to and from India for the fourth time till July 12, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said on Friday.
A notice about the route guidelines issued to pilots by the CAA stated that Pakistan’s airspace for nine eastern routes for flights to and from India was to remain shut for another fortnight. Meanwhile, the two southern routes that Pakistan had opened for Indian flights in April will remain functional. Without giving further details on closure of airspace, it said the government will review the matter after two weeks.
Islamabad had shut the airspace on February 26 this year following the Indian airstrikes inside Pakistan on a Jaish-e-Mohammad militant camp in Balakot, in retaliation to a suicide bombing that killed 44 Indian security personnel in Pulwama, Kashmir on February 14.
On June 21, well-placed sources had said that Pakistan was likely to keep the airspace shut for India until there was some assurance from New Delhi that Balakot-like incident will not be repeated in future. The ban, according to sources, will remain in place until the issue is raised and resolved at the top level between Islamabad and New Delhi.
On March 27, Pakistan had opened its airspace for all flights except for New Delhi. Since May 15 the ban on eastern airspace has been extended four times.
Stating that the closure was due to security and diplomatic reasons, a top CAA official said on the condition of anonymity that in the last four months of the ban, flag carriers of both the countries had incurred huge losses.
Since the closure of Pakistani airspace, the Indian aviation industry, according to media reports, is incurring more losses than Pakistan. Several foreign airlines are also being forced to take longer routes to reach other destinations. The closure of Pakistani airspace has affected flights from Europe to Southeast Asia while the flights from Europe and the US flying in and out of New Delhi have been the worst hit.
The Delhi-Astana flight now takes three extra hours while Delhi-Moscow flight takes more than two additional hours. The duration of Delhi-Kabul and Delhi-Tehran flights has also doubled.
The PIA operations for Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and New Delhi have been suspended since Feb 26. Before the ban, PIA operated four flights to Kuala Lumpur, two to Bangkok and two to New Delhi in a week. Foreign airlines operating on these routes had to suspend their operations as well. Pakistani passengers now have to reach Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok by taking connecting flights from the Gulf.