Pak refuses to let Srinagar-Sharjah flight use airspace; unfortunate, says Omar
SRINAGAR: Pakistan has refused to allow the direct flight from Srinagar to Sharjah started last month to use its airspace, forcing GO First airline to opt for a longer route over Gujarat, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
An airline official said the airline changed its route to avoid Pakistani airspace from Tuesday. Union home minister Amit Shah formally launched the international flight on October 23 when he travelled to Jammu and Kashmir, his first visit in two years.
“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,” the airline official said. The flight now takes 4 hours and 15 minutes. News agency PTI said it will fly over Gujarat.
The longer flying time will eventually make the plane ticket more expensive, he added.
Srinagar international airport director Kuldeep Singh declined to comment on Pakistan’s decision to bar the international flight or the longer route. But he stressed that the flight on the Srinagar-Sharjah route has a “full load of travellers”.
“People are very enthusiastic about this direct flight... We are following all the Covid protocols,” he said.
In view of the response, more flights have been added. “According to the new schedule, a flight will be leaving for Sharjah every day and back,” Singh said. In the initial days, there were four flights a week.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah said the decision not to allow the flight to overfly Pakistan was 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 central government for not doing the groundwork before the start of the flight. “Puzzling that 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 that 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 the use of its airspace.
Omar Abdullah did anticipate Pakistan’s refusal the day the first flight took off from Srinagar.“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.
“Because of Pakistan’s cussed refusal to allow flights originating from Srinagar to use its airspace the SXR-DXB flight had to take a ‘technical halt’ in Delhi or had to fly south & go around Pakistan airspace. This made the flight completely unviable both in terms of cost & time,” he said.