New Delhi/Mumbai: Pakistan re-opened its airspace to civilian traffic after more than four months on Tuesday, giving relief to Indian carriers and international passengers hit by lengthy flying times and mounting fares.
Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority, in a Notice to Airmen (Notam), said the country’s airspace was open to all types of civil traffic on published routes. The airspace was blocked after a non-military airstrike by the Indian Air Force at a terror camp in Balakot on 26 February. In April, Pakistan opened one of its 11 air routes for west-bound flights from India, which Air India started using.
After the restrictions were lifted, SpiceJet operated a direct Jaipur-Dubai flight on Tuesday forenoon overflying Pakistan, one person familiar with the development said, requesting anonymity.
IndiGo is also preparing for flights over Pakistan.
The closure of the airspace by Islamabad dealt a blow to Indian carriers operating internationally, as they were forced to take lengthy detours, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri told Parliament earlier this month. The national carrier alone suffered a ₹491 crore loss due to the airspace restrictions till 2 July.
Aloke Bajpai, chief executive and co-founder of online travel portal Ixigo, said the airspace closure affected airlines operating flights to and from Dubai, the US and Canada. “With the ban now lifted, airfares of international flights from cities like Delhi and Mumbai on some routes have dipped by 35-40%. The one-way average fare of a Mumbai-Amsterdam flight which was 1.5 hours longer last week due to the ban, has decreased from ₹40,515 to ₹26,700 this week," said Bajpai.
Air India’s operation costs for one-way US- and Europe-bound flights are likely to be down by ₹20 lakh and ₹5 lakh per flight respectively, news agency PTI reported on Tuesday.
The dropping of the restriction will allow Pakistan, which this month agreed to a $6 billion bailout with the International Monetary Fund, to collect overflight fees from airlines, Reuters reported.
“IndiGo flights flying via Pakistan will operate as normal after all regulatory clearances by the concerned authorities," IndiGo said in a statement.