Pakistan re-opens airspace to civil aviation

Pakistan has lifted the restrictions that were imposed on much of its airspace for nearly five months.

In a surprise move given the CAA had spoken previously of extending the restrictions until 26 July, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) issued a NOTAM on 16 July stating: “With immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all types of civil traffic on published routes.”

Pakistan completely closed its airspace in February, as an indication of the seriousness in rising military and political tensions between India and Pakistan. The closure was enforced after India conducted an airstrike on Pakistan territory on 26 February, which was followed numerous dogfights involving both sides.

Following the lifting of restrictions, “flights have started using the previously closed airĀ  routes, bringing a significant relief for airlines,” the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation said. But, it is expected to take longer for some smaller carriers to resume Pakistan overflights.

Although partial operations at Pakistani airports were resumed once the immediate crisis passed earlier this year, the closure caused major disruptions to airports in and around the region with Indian airlines having to modify many of their international routes, particularly those to Europe. As a result costs rose significantly for Indian carriers, with the government predicting that the restrictions cost Air India over US$58 million alone.

The airspace restrictions also caused significant issues for foreign airlines that used the Pakistan overflight routes. Long-haul flights between Southeast Asia and Europe were significantly affected.

Pakistan lost significant revenue as their overflight fees decreased dramatically, along with Afghanistan which was also affected, as Pakistan’s closures resulted in fewer overflights in its airspace.

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