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March 1, 2019

Pakistan expected to restore airspace from 1:00pm Friday

Business

March 1, 2019

Karachi: Pakistan’s airspace is expected to reopen for domestic and international flights from 1:00 pm on Friday (March 1) as the country’s geopolitical tension with India seems to deescalate, a senior official said on Thursday.

The official of Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told The News that the airspace would be restored on 1:00 pm on Friday.

“All the domestic and international travelers have been notified,” the official said, requesting anonymity. “We have also informed IATA’s (International Air Transport Association) headquarters.”

The tension between neighbouring India and Pakistan escalated earlier this week. Pakistan shot down two Indian jets in retaliation to their violation of the country’s international border, triggering air travel imbroglio across the region.

The senior official, however, said the final decision to restore airspace depends on the higher authorities despite issuance of notices to airmen, widely known as Notams, by the CAA.

“We have the National Command Authority and that has the prerogative to decide,” the official added. “The situation is changing every moment.”

Pakistan’s airspace remained closed for all commercial flights on Thursday. A number of passengers were stranded on airports, as the airspace was closed on Wednesday.

A travel agent said Emirates and Qatar Airways were among the carriers forced to cancel their flights, many to and from Europe, on February 27 due to the ban. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), earlier on Friday, announced to resume some flights to UAE and Saudi Arabia as the airline was communicated by the CAA regarding a short window opening. However, the announcement was withdrawn later.

Three commercial aircraft, one each of Emirates, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways, that landed before the closure were allowed to leave from the Peshawar airport on Thursday. No further commercial aircraft activity was allowed.

A PIA spokesman said the passengers were inquiring about the schedule of the flights, and they had been advised to wait. The airline has not calculated the backlog as yet.

“Once the ban is lifted and flight operations resume, we would calculate the backlog, and the passengers would be advised accordingly,” the spokesman added. At least five Indian airports were also closed and scores of flights were canceled.

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