Balakot air strikes impact: Pakistan suffers over USD 50 mn losses due to airspace closure

PTI Karachi | Updated on July 19, 2019

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The move comes days before PM Imran Khan’s first visit to the US

Pakistan suffered a whopping USD 50 million loss after it closed its airspace with India for nearly five months following the Balakot air strikes in February, according to the country’s Aviation Minister, who underlined that Islamabad’s action hit New Delhi “harder”.

Pakistan fully closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force (IAF) struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot in retaliation for the Pulwama attack carried out by a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based terror outfit.

Read more: Relief for flyers, airlines as Pak opens airspace

While India removed some airspace restrictions later, Pakistan kept the ban in place along its eastern border with India for nearly five months, leading to increased flight time for passengers and huge fuel costs to airlines.

Pakistan opened its airspace for all civilian traffic on Tuesday, removing the ban on Indian flights that were not allowed to use majority of its airspace since the Balakot air strikes.

Huge loss

Pakistan’s Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan said on Thursday said that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) suffered a loss of Rs 8.5 billion (USD 50 million) because of airspace restrictions since February in the wake of the “Indian aggression”. “It’s a huge loss for our overall (aviation) industry,” he was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.

The airspace closure disrupted Indian flights headed west. It also forced Pakistan International Airlines to suspend some of its flights, and effectively closed off major international routes in and out of Islamabad and Lahore.

“But this restriction hit India harder than Pakistan. The loss of India is almost double. But at this juncture détente and harmony are required from both sides,” Khan said at a press conference at the CAA headquarters here.

Pakistan Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat had earlier informed a parliamentary panel that Pakistan would not withdraw the ban until India removed its fighter jets from forward bases.

The lifting of the airspace restrictions, days ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first visit to the US, would be a major relief to Air India, which suffered a financial loss of over Rs 400 crores as it had to re-route various international flights.

Air India, others impacted

Air India suffered a loss of Rs 430 crore in the four-month period when air space was restricted by Pakistan after the Balakot air strikes, Civil Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

Between February 26 and July 15, Pakistan opened only two routes out of 11 for Indian flights. These two routes passed over southern Pakistan.

Also read: Air India suffered ₹430 cr loss due to Pakistan air space closure

Air India had to re-route, merge or suspend many of its international flights that connect India with European and US cities. “The flying time for long-haul flights towards the USA increased by 90 minutes and addition fuel was needed. US-bound flights had to be stopped at Vienna,” an Air India spokesperson said this week, explaining the effect the airspace closure had on the national flag carrier.

IndiGo, India’s largest airline by domestic market share, was unable to start direct flights from Delhi to Istanbul due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace. The low-cost carrier started flying the Delhi-Istanbul route in March. It had to take the longer route over the Arabian Sea and make a stop at Doha in Qatar for refuelling.

Published on July 19, 2019

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