- Thousands of flights were canceled or rerouted after Pakistan closed its airspace following escalating tensions with India.
- Airlines around the world delayed or scrapped routes passing over the country, which occupies a pivotal position between Asia and the Middle East.
- Tensions have soared between the two nuclear powers over the past two weeks. Both countries shot down each others’ jets on Wednesday, and Pakistan captured an Indian pilot.
Thousands of flights around the world were canceled or rerouted when Pakistan closed its airspace amid flaring tensions between it and nuclear rival India.
Authorities in Pakistan closed the entire country’s air space after a confrontation between in and India over the contested Kashmir region, in which Pakistan says it shot down two Indian military planes.
The closure had a massive effect on the aviation industry, given Pakistan’s pivotal position between Asia and the Middle East.
Thousands of flights regional flights, as well as flight to Europe and Canada, were cancelled or rerouted to avoid Pakistani airspace.
Here are some of the airlines and routes affected by the closure across Wednesday and Thursday:
- Thai Airways said on Wednesday that it had canceled all flights to Europe, as well as all flights to and from Pakistan. On Thursday, the airline said that it had resumed its flights to Europe, and that the flights would go through China instead.
- Emirates cancelled 10 flights between Dubai and a number of Pakistan’s airports on Thursday.
- Air Canada warned of delays of flights to Bombay and New Delhi on Wednesday and Thursday because of airspace closures “due to political activity.”
- Qatar Airways said that flights to Peshawar, Faisalabad, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Sialkot were delayed or suspended until further notice.
- Singapore Airlines said on Wednesday that a number of flights to Europe would be rerouted so they could stop to refuel en route to their destination.
- British Airways was forced to reroute an unspecified number of flights, Reuters reported.
As of Thursday, Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority’s website said that most flights scheduled to arrive in all of Pakistan’s airports are cancelled.
Flight tracking website Flightradar 24 shared an image of what it said was “the most extreme example yet of the circuitous routing required due to the closure of Pakistani airspace” on Thursday morning. The Uzbekistan Airways flight was from Uzbekistan to India.
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) February 28, 2019
Flightradar 24 also shared a map comparing airspace above Pakistan when the closure was made, versus a month before:
Flights to/from Delhi (DEL | VIDP) today at 1545 UTC vs. same time one month prior.
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) February 27, 2019
Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority told passengers to contact their airlines for updates on their flights to and from Pakistan.
Tension has increased between two rival nuclear powers
Pakistan’s military earlier Wednesday said it had shot down two Indian aircraft that crossed into Pakistan’s side of the disputed Kashmir region, while India said that it had shot down one Pakistan Air Force plane.
Pakistan has one Indian pilot in custody, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
General Vijay Kumar Singh, the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, described the pilot as “embodiment of a mentally tough, selfless & courageous soldier” and called for his safe return.
“During these testing times the country stands, as one, behind him & his family. Our efforts are on & under the #GenevaConvention we hope that the brave pilot would return home soon,” he said.
Pakistan released a video of the detained pilot, which India called a “vulgar display” and an “unprovoked act of aggression.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said at a press conference on Wednesday that the two countries “should sit down and talk.” He urged “better sense to prevail.”
Khan said that given the two nations’ nuclear arsenals, “My question is that given the weapons we have can we afford miscalculation.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that “the entire country is one and is standing with our soldiers.”
He did not specifically mention Pakistan, but said “When our enemy tries to destabilize the country, when terrorists attack – one of their goals is that our progress should stop, our country should stop moving ahead,” CNN reported.
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