Pakistani Airspace Reopens as Kashmir Tensions Ease

 - March 1, 2019, 11:25 AM

Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Administration opened its airspace “with restrictions” Friday, clearing airlines to resume flights over its territory for the first time since February 27, when authorities barred any overflights in response to escalating tensions in Kashmir. The Notam expired on Thursday night, soon after the CAA temporarily lifted its restrictions to allow at least three commercial flights to depart Peshawar.  

Flight operations to and from Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, and Karachi resumed under restricted airspace on Friday at 1 p.m. Pakistan time.

Soon after the CAA’s announcement, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) announced that its flights to Jeddah, Dubai, Madina, and Dammam would depart Friday evening. Bahrain’s Gulf Air and Dubai’s Emirates said they would resume Peshawar, Karachi, and Islamabad flights immediately. However, Gulf Air’s service to Multan, Faisalabad, Sialkot, and Lahore remained canceled and Emirates said it would not resume its service to and from Lahore and Sialkot until March 4.

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines resumed direct flights between Singapore and Europe after the airspace closure over Pakistan forced refueling stops in Mumbai and Dubai for services such as Singapore-Frankfurt and Singapore-London. One of the most severely affected carriers, Thai Airways, finally began flying thousands of passengers stranded in Bangkok to their European destinations Thursday evening after receiving permission to use Chinese airspace.

The airspace closure came almost immediately after Pakistani warplanes shot down an Indian MiG-21, as hostilities with India reached a crisis level on Wednesday. Efforts to ease tensions saw Pakistan on Friday hand over an Indian pilot who parachuted into Pakistani territory.