New Delhi: A face-off between arch rivals India and Pakistan leading to fighter-jet combat is disrupting a key transcontinental route for commercial planes between Europe and Asia.
With the South Asian nations claiming they have shot down each other’s military aircraft, Pakistan has closed its entire airspace — forcing Singapore Airlines Ltd. to cancel a flight from Frankfurt to Singapore. Even westbound flights to London and Frankfurt have been forced to divert, causing them to make refueling stops in Dubai or Mumbai, the carrier said in a statement.
The South Asian nations are engaged in the most serious military confrontation in decades, after India said on Tuesday it killed hundreds of militants in a camp inside Pakistan. Pakistan retaliated by shooting down two Indian aircraft and capturing at least one pilot, while India said it downed a Pakistani jet.
Pakistani airspace is used for several key routes including Singapore to London, Kuala Lumpur to Frankfurt and Hong Kong to Dubai, as that is the shortest aerial route for those flights, data from flight data website gcmap.com showed.
Thai Airways International Pcl also canceled its flights between Bangkok and London, citing “escalated tensions between India and Pakistan." Thai Airways flies to 11 countries in Europe and the aerospace closure will affect flights to these destinations, according to the company.
In another example of the disruptions, a SpiceJet Ltd. flight from Kabul to New Delhi is taking as much as 5 hours and 40 mins, compared with a regular 1 hour and 40 minutes, as it was forced to take a detour to avoid Pakistan, according to flight tracking website flightradar24.com.
Sri Lankan Airlines canceled flights to the Pakistani cities of Karachi and Lahore on Thursday following the airspace closure, it said in a statement. The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation said flights will be diverted after the Pakistani advisory, while the UAE Aviation Authority suspended flights to Pakistan, Al Arabiya reported.
Airports in North India were shut for hours before restrictions were lifted, authorities said. IndiGo, India’s largest carrier, Singapore Airlines-affiliate Vistara, Jet Airways India Ltd., and Go Air said separately their flights were suspended at several airports.