Pakistani Airspace Reopens After Almost 5 Months

Pakistan has reopened it’s airspace to all air traffic for the first time in six months, after a flare-up in tensions with rival India back in February.

The airspace border between Pakistan and India is now open. Photo: Wikimedia

What are the details?

Back on February 26th of this year, a rise in geopolitical tensions between Pakistan and India saw Pakistan restricting air travel within their borders. 

The restricted airspace between the two countries highlighted in red. Photo: Simple Flying / Google Maps

Specifically, Pakistan closed the airspace along their east border with India, essentially forming a wall prohibiting any air passage not only from India towards Pakistan and beyond, but all travel from Asia to Europe. This resulted in airlines having to divert around the two countries, adding delays to their flights and incurring unavoidable fuel costs.

Indian Border
Flights avoiding the border between the two countries. Notice the many flights sneaking just through India’s northernmost sea border on their west coast.  Photo: Flight Radar.

The most affected carriers were, of course, Indian in origin. These carriers had to either fly south over the Indian ocean and around, or over the stormy Himalayas to the north. This was unwelcome news, as many Indian airlines were already struggling with a massive fare war and already losing a major carrier to bankruptcy.

Indian carriers Air India, SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir reportedly lost nearly $80m USD from the effects of the border closing. When the closure occurred, several flights in transit had to turn around, including some European carriers.

What’s happened now?

According to Flight Global, on the 15th of July at 19:00 GMT, Pakistan lifted the airspace restrictions and allowed all aircraft (Indian or otherwise) to travel across the eastern border.

“With immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (Air Traffic Service) routes,” – Statment on the Pakistan Ministry of Aviation website.

This will be a breath of relief for carriers such as Virgin Atlantic, who has had to fly south over the Indian ocean on its Delhi to London route. In the future, they will be able to fly directly north and cross the border, saving around 30-60 minutes.

Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic VS301 flying south. Photo: Flight Radar

Other carriers such as IndiGo will be able to open new routes now that they are no longer hampered by the border restriction. Previously, they have only been able to launch routes form their southern cities as their A320 fleet only can fly so far. Now that the block is lifted, they could feasibly fly to more destinations from cities like Delhi into Central Asia and the Middle East.

Why did they lift restrictions?

Now, that is an interesting question. Why did they suddenly lift restrictions after six months of tensions?

According to the BBC, this news came just hours after US carrier United announced that they would suspend more flights to India as they could not fly around the border restrictions. Perhaps the two are connected? We will let you decide.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.