Closed since Balakot strike, Pakistan reopens airspace for all civilian traffic
Pakistan has said it has reopened its airspace to all civilian planes following months of restrictions after the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out airstrikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot earlier this year.
Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority cancelled the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) for its airspace from 12:38am on Tuesday, a step taken by India as well. Airlines are likely to resume normal routes through Pakistan airspace after the restrictions were lifted.
“With immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civilian traffic on published ATS (Air Traffic Service) routes,” the NOTAM issued by the authority said.
Pakistan had earlier said it would not open its airspace for commercial flights until India removed its fighter jets from forward Indian airbases.
The neighbouring country had fully shut its airspace on the eastern border with India after the strike on Balakot on February 26. The strikes on the terror camp were in response to the JeM-perpetrated terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 14. Forty personnel of the Central Reserve Police force (CRPF) were killed in the attack.
In March, Pakistan partially opened its airspace but did not allow Indian flight to fly over its airspace. It opened one of its 11 air routes for west-bound flights from India mid-April -- airlines like Air India and Turkish Airlines have started using it.
Foreign airlines using Indian airspace have been forced to take costly detours because they cannot fly over Pakistan. The closure mainly affects flights from Europe to Southeast Asia.
Pakistan lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor and the airspace restrictions impacted hundreds of commercial and cargo flights each day, adding to flight time for passengers and fuel costs for airlines.