Pakistan Fully Reopens Airspace to Overflights

 - July 16, 2019, 2:55 PM

Pakistan on Tuesday reopened its entire airspace to commercial traffic following almost six months of closures due to tensions arising from February attacks in India-controlled Kashmir by a Pakistan-based militant group. A Notam issued by Pakistani authorities officially ended the restrictions, which resulted in several international airlines curtailing service on several routes between Europe and Asia. The airspace closure added as much as 350 nautical miles—or an hour’s flying time—on certain routes, costing airlines’ fuel and stretching crew work hours beyond legal limits, according to OpsGroup.

“Pakistan being open again makes the traditional and preferred Europe-Asia route through Afghanistan, Pakistan and onwards to India available again, and means that city pairs abandoned after the February shutdown will likely be restarted,” OpsGroup said in a blog posting Tuesday.

Although Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority lifted a total flight ban “with restrictions” in early March, certain flight corridors—largely affecting flights between Europe and Delhi—remained closed.  

The initial airspace closure came almost immediately after Pakistani warplanes shot down an Indian MiG-21, as hostilities with India reached a crisis level in late February. Efforts to ease tensions saw Pakistan days later hand over an Indian pilot who parachuted into Pakistani territory. Nevertheless, not until midnight on Monday did Pakistan see fit to lift all the restrictions.