Pakistan extends airspace closure on Indian border to June 14

Islamabad, PakistanUpdated: May 29, 2019, 05:57 PM IST
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An aerial view of the airplane hub at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan. Photograph:(Reuters)

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Pakistan closed its airspace in February after a suicide attack by a Pakistan-based militant group in Kashmir led to aerial bombing missions on each other's soil and a fighter dogfight over Kashmir.

Pakistani airspace on its eastern border with India will remain closed until June 14, a civil aviation official said on Wednesday, the latest extension months after a stand-off between the arch-rivals.

Pakistan closed its airspace in February after India's retaliation in response to a deadly terror attack on a convoy in Jammu and Kashmir in which 40 Indian soldiers were killed. India sent fighter planes to Balakot, deep inside Pakistan, to destroy terror camps.

Foreign carriers using Indian airspace have been forced to take costly detours because they cannot fly over Pakistan. The closure mainly affects flights from Europe to Southeast Asia.

"The closure will continue until June 14," a spokesperson for Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority said, without giving further details.

Pakistan lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor and the airspace restrictions impact hundreds of commercial and cargo flights each day, adding flight time for passengers and fuel costs for airlines.

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 recently said 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.

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.