In a big respite for airlines as well as passengers flying towards the west of India, Pakistan opened its airspace for all civilian traffic on Tuesday morning, removing the ban on Indian flights that were not allowed to use majority of its airspace since the Balakot air strikes in February.
“With immediate effect Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (Air Traffic Service) routes,” according to a notice to airmen (NOTAMS) published on the authority’s website.
The move is expected to give a major relief to Air India which suffered a huge financial loss of around Rs 491 crore as it had to re-route its various international flights due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace.
Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force (IAF) struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot in retaliation to the Pulwama attack on February 14. Since then, the neighbouring country had only opened two routes, both of them passing through the southern region, of the total 11.
The IAF had announced on May 31 that all temporary restrictions imposed on the Indian airspace after the Balakot strike had been removed. However, it did not benefit most commercial airlines and they were waiting for Pakistan to fully open its airspace.
After 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.