Pak refuses airspace use for Srinagar-Sharjah flight; route gets longer by 45 minutes

Published on Nov 04, 2021 12:40 AM IST

Political leaders have criticised the Centre for launching the Srinagar-Sharjah flight without taking logistics such as Pakistan airspace use.

The Srinagar-Sharjah flight was inaugurated on October 23 by Union home minister Amit Shah; there will now be a delay in flight. (HT FILE PHOTO FOR REPRESENTATIVE PURPOSES ONLY)
The Srinagar-Sharjah flight was inaugurated on October 23 by Union home minister Amit Shah; there will now be a delay in flight. (HT FILE PHOTO FOR REPRESENTATIVE PURPOSES ONLY)
ByAshiq Hussain

Srinagar Pakistan has refused to allow its airspace to be used for Srinagar-Sharjah international flight, inaugurated by Union home minister Amit Shah on October 23, forcing the airline concerned, Go First, to use a longer route. Political leaders have criticised the development. An official of GO First airline said that from Tuesday the airline changed its route to avoid the Pakistani air space.

“It is true that we have to avoid the airspace of Pakistan now. It has increased the time of the flight by around 45 minutes. Earlier it took around 3 hours 30 minutes; now we take 4 hours 15 minutes for the journey,” said an official of the airline. “It will obviously increase costs, but for the time being we are in the wait-and-watch mode,” the official added.

At the inauguration, Shah had said that he hoped that the flight would help in boosting tourism and bring more investment in the UT.

Srinagar International Airport director Kuldeep Singh said that the flight was having good response from people. “People are enthusiastic over this flight and mostly the airline has a full occupancy. We are following all Covid protocols,” he said, refusing to comment on the refusal of airspace by Pakistan and the use of a longer route.

While official sources said that since the inauguration, there were four flights –to and fro – every week. But now there is a new schedule as per the director. “According to the new schedule, a flight will be leaving for Sharjah everyday and back,” he added.

Former J&K chief minister and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah termed the airspace refusal by Pakistan unfortunate.

“ Very unfortunate. Pakistan did the same thing with the Air India Express flight from Srinagar to Dubai in 2009-2010. I had hoped that @GoFirstairways being permitted to overfly Pak airspace was indicative of a thaw in relations, but alas that wasn’t to be,” he said in a tweet.

People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti criticised the Centre for not doing the groundwork before the start of the flight. “Puzzling that the Government of India (GOI) didn’t even bother securing permission from Pakistan to use its airspace for international flights from Srinagar. Only PR extravaganza without any groundwork,” she said.

It was in 2009, when the first international flight took off from Srinagar Airport to Dubai after being inaugurated by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. But the optimism did not last long as all international flights were grounded owing to various reasons, including objections by Pakistan over using its airspace.

After the Srinagar-Sharjah flight’s inauguration, Omar had flagged the issue of how Pakistan had refused to allow its airspace in the past.

“Regarding the Srinagar-Sharjah flight that has been announced today - has Pakistan had a change of heart & allowed flights originating from Srinagar to use its airspace? If not then this flight will die the way the Srinagar-Dubai flight died during UPA2,” he said on October 23.

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