Pakistan's airspace to remain shut for Indian flights till May 30
BY: M Zulqernain
Lahore: Pakistan on Wednesday decided not to lift its airspace ban for Indian flights till May 30, as Islamabad is awaiting the outcome of the Lok Sabha polls in India.
Pakistan fully closed its airspace after an Indian Air Force strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot on February 26. However, Pakistan opened its airspace for all flights except for New Delhi, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur on March 27.
"The top officials of defence and aviation ministries held a meeting on Wednesday to reconsider opening its airspace for Indian flights. They decided that Pakistan's airspace will remain banned for the Indian flights till May 30,” a senior government official told PTI after the meeting.
He said the Civil Aviation Authority has also notified the decision to the airmen. The authority issued a notification (Notam) after the meeting to pilots, advising them of circumstances relating to the state of flying.
The official said the government will now consider lifting of the ban on Pakistan's airspace for Indian flights on May 30.
Pakistan's Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry early this week said that the status quo will remain till the conclusion of elections in India.
"Status quo will remain till the elections are over in India. I don't see any improvement in relations between Pakistan and India till the elections are over and a new government is installed. The ban on airspace by each other I think will also continue till Indian polls," Chaudhry told PTI.
Owing to the flight ban on its airspace by India, Pakistan has suspended its operation for Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur which is causing a loss of millions of rupees per day. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) used to operate four flights to Kuala Lumpur, two to Bangkok and two to New Delhi.
A senior PIA official told PTI that the national flag carrier's loss is running into billions of rupees because of suspension of the flights especially to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
"We are not only facing the huge financial loss but also losing our passengers to other airlines," he said, adding that this matter should now be resolved. "If land and rail routes are operational between Pakistan and India, what's wrong with the air route," the official questioned.
Pakistan lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor. Flights to India often pass directly over Pakistan.
The airlines and civil aviation authorities of both the countries are enduring massive losses. The flights between Europe to Far-East are not only facing huge financial losses, but the flight duration has also increased, while the airlines have also increased their ticket prices.
Pakistan in mid-April had opened one of its 11 air routes for west-bound flights from India and airlines such as Air India and Turkish Airlines have started using it. The operating cost for Air India, which flies to destinations in Europe and the US, reportedly has increased significantly as it had to take longer routes due to closure of Pakistan airspace.