Lahore: Pakistan on Thursday extended its airspace ban along its eastern border with India for the third time till June 28, according to a notice issued by the country's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Pakistan fully closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force fighter jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot following the Pulwama terror attack in Kashmir.
The CAA notice issued to airmen (NOTAM) on Thursday says: "Pakistani airspace will be closed until June 28 along its eastern border with India. The Panjgoor airspace will remain open for overflying transit flights from the western side as Air India had already been using that airspace."
A Pakistan government official told PTI that since there has been no official communication between the two countries regarding the opening of their airspace for each other the "status quo" will prevail. "See if some development takes place at the government's level in this respect before June 28," he said.
On Wednesday Pakistan gave special permission to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's VVIP flight to use its airspace for his official trip to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. However, Prime Minister Modi's VVIP aircraft avoided flying over Pakistan. Earlier, Pakistan had allowed India's former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to fly directly through Pakistani airspace to participate in the meeting of SCO foreign ministers in Bishkek on May 21.
Since the latest round of Indo-Pak tensions, Pakistan has only opened two air routes, both of them pass through southern Pakistan, of the total 11. The IAF announced on May 31 that all temporary restrictions imposed on Indian airspace post the Balakot airstrike have been removed.
On May 15, Pakistan first extended the airspace ban till May 30. Then on May 30, it extended the ban till June 15. Now it has prolonged the airspace ban till June 28. As a result of the ban, foreign carriers using Indian airspace have been forced to take costly detours because they cannot fly over Pakistan. The closure mainly affects flights from Europe to Southeast Asia. The flights from Europe and the US flying in and out of New Delhi have been the worst hit.
Since Pakistan's airspace closure, the airfare on many routes has gone up significantly, including Delhi-Kabul, Delhi-Moscow, Delhi-Tehran and Delhi-Astana.