Pakistan Reopens Airspace To Foreign Airlines

Filed Under: Travel

In late February 2019, Pakistan closed their airspace to foreign airlines. This followed escalating tensions between India and Pakistan, though the impacts of the closures were felt far beyond that.

Pakistan airspace is frequently used by airlines operating flights to & from other countries (especially flights between Europe and Asia), and in many cases this had significant implications.

For example, this airspace closure caused Air Canada and United to suspend some of their flights to India, and it caused Air India to have to add fuel stops on many of their flights to the US.

I’ve been wondering if this closure would ever end, since it seems like tensions are escalating in so many parts of the world (for example, when the Gulf blockade first started many of us thought it was temporary, though it’s still going on).

Well, there’s some good news on this front — Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority has reopened Pakistani airspace with immediate effect for all types of civil traffic on published ATS routes.

This means that we should see operations resume as normal relatively soon. We’re already seeing some airlines operate flights over Pakistani airspace, as you’d expect. India’s aviation minister had said that Indian airlines have lost about $80 million due to Pakistani airspace closure, which doesn’t seem that surprising.

This airspace closure has been costly for Air India

The big question revolves around airlines that had to cancel flights due to these airspace restrictions. It will be interesting to see how quickly they restart service. For example, United has suspended their Newark to Delhi and Mumbai flights until October 26, 2019.

United has suspended flights due to the airspace closure

While the airline could resume those flights earlier, my guess is that they won’t, since filling up these flights profitably on short notice probably won’t be easy. I imagine they’ve already rebooked most passengers who were booked on those flights on partner airlines.

Comments
  1. @Lucky – United will still face problems on operating flights to India as the Iranian airspace is closed. With a creative flight path (i.e. via the Central Asia) they can fly to DEL but BOM seems to be impossible unless the airspace restrictions are lifted.

  2. Yeah as Srihari says, I though United cancelled flights because they choose not to fly over Iranian airspace. I have a work trip to Pune, India next month. Was going to fly SFO-EWR-BOM all on UA metal, now routing SFO-FRA-BOM with the second leg on LH.

  3. @Matt Wow Matt that’s awesome! I haven’t heard too many people say “I have a work trip to Pune”. That’s my family hometown and I fly there very frequently from LA to visit family. But it’s grown tremendously in the last 10 years. Cool to see. Have your explored the option of flying directly into Pune? Most of the times I fly into Mumbai too and drive to Pune, but sometimes when there’s time constraints for me I fly directly into Pune on a single ticket from LA with either Air India or Vistara (on a United ticket) or sometimes Lufthansa before the changed the flight to a crappy A319.

  4. @flyingrohit : Oh that’s cool! My company has a big technical office there and we partner with Accenture. This will be my second trip this year. My coworkers have talked about the incredible growth. I did fly directly in last time, on Jet Airways, but obviously don’t have that option now. From SFO, the options into BOM are more comfortable (IMO) than into DEL and connecting to PNQ. I think Singapore used to have a SIN-PNQ direct, which would have been great since I’d be one stop from SFO. Being a primadonna, I’ll only fly over 12 hours if I can get a J seat, and my company only pays for PE. Thankfully we do have some great car services from Mumbai. #firstworldproblems

  5. I just got of the phone on the 1K line. They told me they got an email stating that flights to India both Delhi and Mumbai resume Sept 6th

  6. Yay!!! That’s great news! As a frequent customer of the EWR-BOM shuttle, this is music to my ears.

  7. ” since filling up these flights profitably on short notice probably won’t be easy. ”

    These flights are rarely empty.

  8. @Matt Yep Accenture I have relatives in Pune who work there I know exactly where those offices are! I don’t believe SQ ever had a direct flight or else I would’ve taken it every single year. However once Vistara inevitably opens that PNQ-SIN flight in the future you can bet it will be a top choice, especially something to consider as they have a separate and dedicated premium economy product on an a320!

    Here’s a choice for you if you fly star alliance and are feeling up for it . Since Air India flies to SFO, you can do SFO-DEL-PNQ round trip in J If you are permitted.

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