Pakistan Airspace Closes, Causing Huge Global Disruptions

Filed Under: Travel

Update: Pakistan’s airspace has reopened.

Given how global aviation is, it’s very much impacted by politics and unrest. Whether we’re talking about Qatar Airways not being able to overfly certain countries, or most countries avoiding North Korean airspace, or flights to Israel typically not being able to fly over many countries, there’s a lot to keep track of.

Well, it looks like you can add another dispute to the list. There has obviously been a lot of tension between India and Pakistan for a very long time, and today Pakistan has said that they shot down two Indian military jets, and captured two pilots.

This blog is about travel and airlines, so we won’t get too deep into that, other than to note that for the time being Pakistan has closed their airspace. The thing is, a lot of airlines use Pakistan’s airspace, including many airlines flying between Asia and Europe.

The implications of this are huge, and we’ve seen a massive number of diversions today, and these have the potential to continue.

For example, Air Canada 42 from Toronto to Delhi was over Europe, and then turned around to go back to Toronto. OMG.

Thai Airways 916 from Bangkok to London turned around about 90 minutes into the flight, so it ended up being a roughly three hour flight.

Singapore Airlines 308 from Singapore to London diverted to Dubai.

So as of now this is still developing. We’ll have to wait and see how long this lasts. My instinct is always to think “oh, I’m sure this’ll be resolved soon,” but often that’s not the case (just look at how Qatar still hasn’t resolved the issues with their neighbors).

If this sticks, this could have a huge impact on flights going forward.

Has anyone been impacted by the Pakistan airspace closure yet?

  1. Nope. I just checked. A SpiceJet flight (SG22) from Kabul to New Delhi, typically goes for 1 hour and 40 minutes. But today? 5 hour and 30 minutes!
    I remembered before Saudi Arabia closed off their airspace to Qatar Airways, a flight from Doha to Khartoum was 3 hours. Now it is 7 hours and 30 minutes.

  2. FlightRadar shows a lot of obvious diversions. PS392 just crossed into Pakistan airspace along the coast at 7:54AM US ET, although it did go southwest from DEL first to avoid northern Pakistan area

  3. Not good. Hope this gets resolved soon for everyone’s sake. Seems flights are diverting through the Persian Gulf corridor. This will certainty tighten up Qatar Airway’s only path. Something to keep your eye on.

  4. Why would the Air Canada flight have to turn around? There are other ways of reaching India without flying over Pakistan. Why not divert to Dubai and then fly over the Indian Ocean?

  5. @ Josh — My guess is that the pilots would have timed out, and it would have caused too much a problem with the visas of passengers. A totally awful situation, but I’m guessing this avoided another type of horror story, where people would be stranded in the terminal.

  6. Please correct. One plane shot down (Might 21)and one pilot captured. Pakistani plane also shot down by Indian airfoce. See statement releasted by Indian govt. Thanks

  7. Pakistani outlets reporting 3 out of 4 pilots captured. Don’t know which is true though. India flew into Pakistani airspace after 5 decades. This is probably going to be a while.

  8. SQ 326 and SQ 318 diverted and now flying BOM-FRA , BOM-LHR.

    India has also closed parts of air space in Rajastan
    Still closed

  9. Update direct from Singapore Airlines:
    In view of the closure of Pakistani airspace, the following Europe-bound flights will make refuelling stops en route before proceeding to their destinations:

    Singapore to London
    1. SQ308 operating from Singapore to London on 27 February 2019 will stop in Dubai for re-fuelling before proceeding to London.
    2. SQ318 operating from Singapore to London on 27 February 2019 will stop in Mumbai for re-fuelling before proceeding to London.

    Singapore to Frankfurt
    1. SQ326 operating from Singapore to Frankfurt on 27 February will stop in Mumbai for re-fuelling before proceeding to Frankfurt, provided it is able to arrive in Frankfurt before the airport’s curfew.

    However, due to the delay, SQ325 operating from Frankfurt to Singapore on 27 February is cancelled and passengers will be transferred to other airlines.

    All other flights that overfly affected airspace will be rerouted, but are due to operate as scheduled at this point.

    As the situation remains fluid, customers are advised to check the status of their flights on our website or contact their local SIA reservations office. Customers are also advised to update their contact details here to receive updates on their flights.

    Customers who require reservations assistance may contact our 24-hour Singapore hotline at +65 6223 8888. However, as we are experiencing high call volumes at our call centres, customers are advised to email [email protected] with their six-character booking reference number and contact details for any assistance.

    First posted on 27 February 2019, 2000hrs (GMT +8)

  10. @ Debit

    That’s a fair comment.

    30 years ago I was at a nice middle class dinner party with, among others, a bright, liberal British headteacher: to my astonishment, she suddenly stated how the British had left their empire behind them in such good order – and the example she cited was Canada.

    Hm. I asked her what she thought about apartheid in South Africa, India/Pakistan, Northern Ireland/the Republic, Israel/Palestine, genocide of aboriginal peoples in Canada, Australia and New Zealand (and the American colonies before independence), among others…? She looked a bit hurt.

  11. TK727 from KTM (Kathmandu) to IST (Istanbul) is delayed by 14 hours! It was scheduled to depart today at 12:30 PM but will depart tomorrow at 02:50 AM with a stop in Bahrein.
    So 6H20 + 1H stop + 4H25 instead of 8H40.
    Was there no alternative routing? Why this stop in Bahrein? Flight is operated by A330. What can we expect for IST-KTM-IST flights next days if Pakistani airspace remains closed?

  12. Not just Pakistan closed their Airspace today, but India also shut many of their Northern Airports for Commercial flights. For Example, Amritsar International is considered the gateway to the far North India for the International traffic. Almost all the flights have been cancelled and some being diverted to Delhi and Jaipur. Those amongst cancelled include SIN-ATQ, SXR-ATQ, KUL-ATQ and DXB-ATQ. As I have gathered so far, these cancellations and disruptions are extending further on 28th Feb as well.

    Jet’s Europe traffic as well took an unusual and longer route through Oman and Saudi today.

  13. I would love a pilots perspective/input on these diversions. Why in the world would that Air Canada flight go all the way back to Toronto rather than divert to London or somewhere close to plan a reroute? And why would that Singapore flight divert at all if they were able to go around Pakistan airpace and keep continuing in London’s direction.
    I understand a LOT goes into these plans but would love to get a bit of understanding behind the decision making.

  14. -Pakistan has nuclear weapons
    -Pakistan was carved out of the body of India to give muslims their safe space, yet there is no peace in the country centred around the religion of peace
    -Pakistan still hasn’t released Asia Bibi, who was acquitted from her blasphemy (death penalty) charge weeks ago and might cave to the mob and lob her head off anyway
    -Pakistan just shot down an Indian jet
    -Pakistan is now exchanging airstrikes with India
    Why are we not boycotting this THUG nation?

  15. @CREDIT

    Get your sources right India is a bigger thug than pakistan
    India has shot down pakistani jets too
    Asia bibi is not in pakistani govt custody
    pakistan is doing what india has been doing for years
    who is the thug now?

  16. Get your facts straight
    Not just Pakistan closed their Airspace today, but India also shut many of their Northern Airports for Commercial flights. For Example, Amritsar International is considered the gateway to the far North India for the International traffic. Almost all the flights have been cancelled and some being diverted to Delhi and Jaipur. Those amongst cancelled include SIN-ATQ, SXR-ATQ, KUL-ATQ and DXB-ATQ. As I have gathered so far, these cancellations and disruptions are extending further on 28th Feb as well.

  17. What about flights TO/FROM Pakistan itself? Are they disrupted too? Or is it just flights overflying Pakistani air space?

  18. A bit worrying for me as I’m going to Delhi from London on 22 March.

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it all gets sorted.

  19. @Tom: why? If this is not extraordinary circumstances, what is?

    Wonder how fast schedules will adjust and how big the chain-effect will be. E.g. my +1 travels from DAC-IST-HAM in a day, with a layover time of 2hrs or so, so if the incoming flight to DAC as well as return flight to IST will each be delayed by say, an hour, she is going to miss her connection. Pretty sure this is what’ll happen since its just too short to adjust any schedules – however, as said, I wonder how long it’ll take to have workarounds..

  20. @leo

    There is only one fact to know about Pakistan.

    After 9/11, Osama Bin Laden was harbored in a safe house literally a stone’s throw from a major Pakistani military training outpost outside of Islamabad. This was going on for years on Pakistani soil while we were conducting the largest scale manhunt in history.

    There is no question that senior Pakistani government officials were complicit in his refuge all the while taking billions of $ in US handouts. Obama shamelessly continued this support after the 2011 raid.

    You can call Indians thugs all that you want. But to support a zealot government like Pakistan is to support Al-quaeda and shows your support for the perpretators of 9/11.

  21. @Lucky – Pakistani and Northern Indian airspace were both shut this morning.

    Your news report is inaccurate. Both sides suffered the loss of one aircraft. The IAF lost a Mig 21 Bison and the PAF lost a F-16. Pakistan claims that the IAF pilot has been captured and is in custody.

    It’s about time that India retaliated against the terrorist groups in Pakistan.

  22. @jayjay still costs the airlines to rebook customers Just because they are not liable doesn’t mean it doesn’t cost anything

  23. How long does it take for an airline to get a flyiver permit for Iran? It might be a bit time consuming, but wouldn’t that be easier and less expensive for TG than cancelling flights?

  24. Qatar still hasn’t resolved the issue with their neighbours ? Qatar has no issues with their neighbours, they are the one who imposed the bloquade, so far nothing has been proved true.

  25. Pakistan is in denial and pure liars.

    Telling their people that Indians attacked open land on 26/2, when clearly India surgically stroke a JeM camp.

    Meanwhile Imran Khan, Pakistan PM is calling for peace talks.

    Did India strike or not?

    Meanwhile Pakistan is capturing PoW, and violating Geneva convention by posting PoW on social media from official government accounts!

    If Imran Khan wants peace talks why is his military capturing PoW?

    India will continue to strike until Pakistan agree to fight terrorists and more importantly stop lying.

  26. @ Debit – I agree that the British split India and Pakistan without much thought in 1947 and it has caused problems since .

    However I do not agree with some of your other comment .
    I was raised and educated in Kenya when it was a British colony and then lived there also after independence. I also worked in Uganda , just 4 years after independence . I then worked in Pakistan ( ex British ) for 2 years and then Hong Kong as a British colony for 23 years . The British left a lot of good infrastructure and systems in these countries and when you talk to older people there,they will tell you so .
    As I see it , it is only the new millenium ”save the planet ”attitudes and politics that many follow but who do not really know understand why they follow them .

  27. @Leo totally agree with you. India is itself a perpetrator of state terrorism…just look at what is happening in Indian controlled Kashmir yet India continues to blame Pakistan. Some commentators have even suggested that the whole Pulwama incident was orchestrated by India to gain votes in the upcoming election by blaming and attacking Pakistan.

    Also, no Pakistani F16 was shot down that is just a baseless claim without any proof so far.

  28. I’m loving the political discussion here. Can we throw in the perspective of the LGBT travel concerns/benefits of visiting Pakistan to really amp up this shitshow?!?

  29. Damn, I just flew Scoot’s Singapore to Athens on Tuesday. Our flight would have probably had the same fate as Singapore’s flight 308, had it happened on Wednesday (Scoot flies SIN – ATH only twice a week). I feel for everyone who had their vacations etc. disrupted. Hopefully this all gets resolved soon.

  30. I think Pakistan nailed it this time.

    India violated Pakistani airspace, no matter what the reason, no country has the right to violate anthers territory. NYT claims there is no evidence what India hit.

    Pakistan shot down Indian jet, captured its pilot. Another Indian chopper down, 5 dead. India claim to shot Pakistani jet, again no evidence.

    Pakistan 0 dead, 1 Jet lost (No evidence)
    India 5 dead, 1 Jet lost, 1 chopper lost, pilot captured.

    NYT claims this is a show for the current Indian PM to get more votes, apparently he is losing.

  31. Joh S M ith

    Why is India violating another counties airspace?

    Pakistan had/has a lot of issues, but this is exactly what Russia did to Ukraine. I haven’t read India has declared a war so PoW or Geneva is out of question.

    The Pakistani PM (for once ) has offered to talk but India doesn’t want to, so this time India got it wrong, very wrong

  32. @Dex – check the news. The IAF just uncovered debris from the F-16, which was downed.

    It’s not the first time that Pakistan has tried to downplay the severity of actions against them. After the raid on Osama Bin Ladin, the Pakistani military also denied that such actions had ever taken place. It seems like misinformation by the Pakistani Armed Forces to bolster the country’s morale and retain nationalism is normal. It’s time that someone took a stance against state-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan. I am in support of the actions taken by the Indian Armed Forces.

    As for the people questioning the violation of a country’s airspace by a foreign nation…NATO forces, Russia and China do this all the time for their national interests. Why is it such a controversy when India does the same for their own national interest?

    It seems as if there is a single troll attempting to create a negative view of India as a sponsor of terrorism. ROTFL…

  33. Okay. Do NATO, Chiense/Russian and India. You can’t say that in one sentence. India is a 3rd world country. Also NATO countries do not drop bombs.

    So why the outcry when Russia invades Ukraine or Syria or Yemen.

  34. @James – mate, are you delusional? India is a global economic and military power. China, India, and frankly even Russia (with their dismal economic and social outlook) are considered developing nations. I fail to see your point. Also, NATO nations do not drop bombs?????? So, have they been sending love hearts in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya? Russia did not invade Syria or Yemen, firstly. Secondly, there is a difference between forceful take-over of a sovereign nation and conducting military strikes for purposes of demolishing terror factions. The Russian invasion of Crimea or Ukraine is a takeover of a sovereign nation, which posed no harm to Russia. I am frankly surprised by the childlike logic in your comment.

    From DC with love.

  35. @travis as I said, no proof has been shared by India to back up its claims. The fuselage pictures that Indian media is sharing and claiming to be of an F16 is in fact a mig21’s, which was downed by Pakistan. This is just a face saving ruse by India.

    As @james stated above Pakistan has clearly nailed it this time. India went in with strikes, but look at where this got them..loosing two planes, pilot in Pakistan’s custody and also loosing a helicopter, not to mention the number of soldiers dead. Pakistan, a nuclear nation, had every right to defend, and defend they did.

    If you read the commentary coming up in media now, it seems this whole drama was staged by the BJP leadership to win the upcoming elections.

    Also @travis before calling anyone a troll who does not subscribe to your point of view, you should broaden your news sources and check out what is really happening in Kashmir. Nothing less than a genocide. A state killing its own people makes India a state sponsor of terrorism.

    Also, despite the many issues that Pakistan has, with their announcement of returning the pilot within a day and the statements coming from their PM, I think they have won on the deescalation front as well.

    Hope better sensibilities prevail in the region.

  36. @Dex

    Actually, the pictures clearly show markings of F-16 armaments – the IAF does not have US built aircraft armaments. The use of F-16s for offensive purposes is actually prohibited by the US and terms of the contract when the aircraft were purchased. Hence, there is resistance to disclose the details by the PAF. There is no legitimate news agency discussing downing of two Indian jets in the skirmish. A single Mig-21 was indeed lost with one pilot in custody. The loss of the Mi-17 is unrelated.

    Of course this is political. Every decision made by a government evaluates its political consequences! Glad to be educated on that – lol.

    In regards to returning the pilot – that shouldn’t be a cause for celebration but rather simple procedure.

    A country will defend its citizens from terror. In this case, the world is aware of what the Pakistani govt is breeding and has been for decades. If it wasn’t for the threat around the lack of the Pakistani government’s control of it’s nuclear arsenal, the stance by all governments would be harsher on Pakistan’s repeated sponsor and solicitation of terrorism. India has shown that it will not back down and I sure hope they continue this fight against terror or force the international community to impose strong sanctions against Pakistan. India needs stronger support from the world and the UN.

    I would hardly consider @James a credible source for support but hey Pro-Pakistan sentiments are rare.

  37. @ glenn t
    “What awful things do you imagine befell Australia and NZ at the hands of the British?”

    I don’t “imagine” anything. My ancestors happily wrote about their genocidal exploits in both places.

    Or do you think there’s some other reason why there wasn’t a single aboriginal left on Tasmania?

    Or why literally hundreds of aboriginal bodies are preserved in UK museum storage rooms, to which they were exported for study like any other exotic animal from the empire (incidentally, hundreds have been returned for burial since pioneering work in the 1980s and 90s at the University of Southampton started logging the numbers – at that time they were counted in the thousands).

    Check out publications from the government-funded Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies which, since the 1970s, has supported a huge amount of historical research in this field.

    But I’m fascinated that you imagine nothing bad happened in those places under the British.

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