As standoff eases, Pakistan to review airspace ban for Indian flights

Meeting scheduled for May 15; senior minister says status quo will continue until Lok Sabha polls conclude in India

Published: 13th May 2019 06:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th May 2019 11:10 AM   |  A+A-

airport, flight, aeroplane

For representational purposes (File Photo | PTI)

By Express News Service

Amid heightened military tensions with India, Pakistani government authorities will deliberate on reopening of the country’s airspace to Indian flights on May 15, a civil aviation official in Lahore said on Sunday.

However, a minister in the Imran Khan government indicated that the status quo would remain until elections in India concluded.

Pakistan and India had closed their airspace to each other’s aircraft after an Indian Air Force strike on a terror camp in Balakot on February 26. On March 27, Islamabad had opened its airspace to all flights except those to New Delhi, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

“The Pakistani government will decide whether or not to lift its airspace ban for Indian flights on May 15,” Mujtaba Baig, spokesperson of Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said on Sunday.

He said that in the May 15 meeting, officials and ministers of the ministries concerned will participate and a decision would be taken on lifting the ban. “The decision will be notified any time on May 15,” Baig said.

However, PM Imran Khan’s close aide and federal science and technology minister Fawad Chaudhry ruled out any change in the status quo until the conclusion of the Lok Sabha polls.

“The status quo will remain till the elections are over in India. I don’t see any improvement in relations between Pakistan and India till the elections are over and a new government is installed. The ban on airspace by each other I think will also continue until the Indian polls,” Chaudhry said.

Asked if the CAA had not written to Prime Minister Khan about the financial losses Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), other private airlines and CAA were suffering because of the closure of profitable routes due to the closed airspace, Baig said: “It is a bilateral matter to be resolved by both the governments.”     

Due to India closing its airspace to Pakistani aircraft, PIA has suspended flights to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, which is causing massive losses. “We are also losing our passengers to other airlines,” a PIA official said. “If land and rail routes are operational between Pakistan and India, what’s wrong with the air route?” 

Airlines suffering

Airlines and civil aviation authorities of both countries are suffering massive losses due to the closure of their airspace to each other’s flights, which has resulted in longer routes and pricier tickets.

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