Pakistan reopens airspace months after India standoff

Key transit air corridor reopens over Pakistani territory, almost five months after neighbours' military standoff.

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    Pakistan reopens airspace months after India standoff
    Global flight tracking service Flightradar24 showed several flights had begun to use previous routes over Pakistan [Caren Firouz/Reuters]

    Islamabad, Pakistan - Pakistan has lifted all airspace restrictions for civilian flights, reopening a key transit air corridor over its territory almost five months after closing it in the wake of a military standoff with its eastern neighbour, India.

    "With immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published [Air Traffic Service] routes," the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said late on Monday.

    Pakistan closed its airspace for all civilian traffic after India carried out air raids on Pakistani territory on February 26, following a suicide attack in the Indian-administered Kashmir town of Pulwama earlier that month. India blamed Pakistan for the February 14 suicide bombing, a charge the latter denied.

    Pakistan carried out its own retaliatory strikes on targets in Indian-administered Kashmir on February 27, with an ensuing dogfight seeing at least one Indian fighter jet shot down. Tensions defused slightly when Pakistan returned the Indian air force pilot who was shot down two days later, but both countries' military forces remained on high alert.

    India had also briefly suspended air traffic at eight airports at the time, mostly near its western border. Pakistan eased some air restrictions in April, but air traffic flying through India was still barred from using major air routes.

    On Tuesday, flight-tracking service Flightradar24 showed several flights had begun to use the newly reopened routes over Pakistan.

    Last week, Pakistan's top aviation bureaucrat Shahrukh Nusrat told parliament that airspace would only be reopened if India withdrew fighter jets placed at bases near the border.

    A CAA spokesperson confirmed to Al Jazeera on Tuesday that the airspace had been reopened, but refused to comment on whether it was in response to any change in India's military posture.

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    Pakistan's military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    In April, authorities in Pakistan reopened southern transit routes for flights over the country, allowing some civilian air traffic to fly through a coastal air corridor.

    Air traffic along the country's eastern corridor, however, remained suspended until the announcement on Monday night, causing major losses to airlines flying between western destinations and India by causing them to reroute around Pakistan.

    Air traffic between southeast Asian countries, notably Thailand, and western destinations was also affected, with those flights also forced to reroute.

    On July 3, Indian Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told his country's upper house of parliament that the airspace closure had cost Indian airlines more than $80.1m.

    The bulk of the losses affected Air India, the national flag carrier, which lost more than $71.65m. Other carriers affected including Indian carriers SpiceJet ($4.48m), IndiGo ($3.66m) and GoAir ($0.3m).

    Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera's digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News