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Pakistan reopens airspace for India

Special Correspondent
Pakistan has reopened its airspace to civil aviation with immediate effect, its aviation authority said on Tuesday, following months of restrictions imposed in the wake of a standoff with neighbouring India earlier this year.
“With immediate effect Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (Air Traffic Service) routes,” according to a a notice to Airmen (NOTAMS) published on the authority’s website. An official at the authority, reached by telephone, confirmed that the change was in effect.
Pakistan closed its airspace in February after a standoff with India in the wake of an attack by a Pakistan-based militant group on a police convoy in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 paramilitary police.
Both countries carried out aerial attacks over the other’s territory during the standoff and warplanes fought a brief dogfight over the skies of the disputed Kashmir region.
The closure had forced Pakistan’s domestic carriers to fly a longer western route along Iran, adding to the flying time between the capital Islamabad and the southern port city of Karachi.
Partial operations at Pakistani airports resumed once tensions eased but restrictions continued to affect many international carriers using Pakistani airspace.
Pakistan lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor and the airspace restrictions affected hundreds of commercial and cargo flights each day, adding to flight time for passengers and fuel costs for airlines.
The announcement came hours after United Airlines Holdings Inc said it was extending the suspension of its flights from the United States to Delhi and Mumbai in India until October 26, citing continued restrictions of Pakistani airspace.
Flight operations were suspended after Pakistan closed its airspace on February 27 for all international and domestic flights in the wake of the security situation. Though all airports in Pakistan were gradually opened but flights over Pakistan airspace were not allowed causing major disruption to flight operations for foreign airlines.
The most affected were the airlines operating out of India. In India, the biggest pain was suffered by Air India that conducts various international flights from Delhi to Europe and the US.
The national carrier had lost Rs491 crore till July 2 due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace. Private airlines SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir lost Rs30.73 crore, Rs 25.1 crore and Rs 2.1 crore, respectively, according to the data presented by Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in the Rajya Sabha on July 3.
Post the air strike, Air India had to re-route, merge or suspend many of its international flights that connect India with European and US cities.
IndiGo, India’s largest airline by domestic market share, was unable to start direct flights from Delhi to Istanbul due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace.
The low-cost carrier started the Delhi-Istanbul flight in March. Till date, this IndiGo flight had to take the longer route over the Arabian Sea and make a stop at Doha in Qatar for refuelling.

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