Two Air India flights from San Francisco landed in Delhi in the wee hours of Tuesday.
Two Air India flights from San Francisco landed in Delhi in the wee hours of Tuesday.

Over 4 months after Balakot airstrike, Pakistan lifts restrictions on Indian civilian aircraft

By Ashoke Raj (ANI) | Updated: Jul 16, 2019 20:43 IST

New Delhi [India], July 16 (ANI): More than four months after the Balakot airstrikes, normal flight operations of Air India (AI) over the Pakistani airspace resumed on Tuesday morning following the lifting of restrictions on Indian civilian aircraft by the neighbouring country.
Two Air India flights from San Francisco landed in Delhi in the wee hours of Tuesday, a couple of hours earlier than scheduled, after Pakistan issued a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) clearing its skies for Indian civilian aircraft.
"Air India flights AI 184 and AI 174 from San Francisco to Delhi landed in India, via the Pakistani air space on Tuesday," said Air India Director (Operation).
Air India Captain Vasdev Singh Jasrotia said that he was the captain who used the Pakistan airspace after it was reopened.
"We were not aware before we took off from San Francisco to Delhi that Pakistan airspace has been opened for Indian carriers. When I entered near the Pakistani airspace, ATC of Pakistan conveyed that Air India can use the Pakistani airspace now," Jasrotia, who was operating AI 184 flight, told ANI.
"But I checked twice before using the airspace. Later, an official of Pakistan ATC confirmed twice that Air India can use their airspace. Finally, we used Pakistan airspace for Delhi after a long time. When we landed at Delhi airport around one hour before, over 235 passengers were very happy that we landed one hour before the scheduled time. Not only we have saved time, but we saved around 5.7-ton fuel also," he said.
Earlier in the day, Air India said that its flight operations over the Pakistani air space may resume tonight as per original schedule after the neighbour opened its sky for all civilian air traffic.
"Ever since Pakistani airspace was closed, we had to re-route our flights south of Pakistan. Flying time for long-haul flights towards the US increased by 90 minutes, due to which fuel usage went up," the airlines' spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar said in a statement.
He said that with the opening of the Pakistani airspace, aircraft utilisation will go up while crew requirement will come down by 25 per cent. US-bound flights had to be stopped in Vienna where there was a change of crew, which also took three hours.
He said the cost of operations on US-bound flights would come down by Rs 20 lakh per flight and for Europe-bound flights, it will be Rs 5 lakh per flight.
"From tonight, flight operation may commence on the original schedule, as earlier," he said.
For the first time since February's Balakot strike, Pakistan fully opened its airspace for civilian traffic, bringing a huge relief for the airlines which had to take long and costly detours to avoid the Pakistani air space.
"With immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civilian traffic on published ATS routes," read a notice to airmen (NOTAM) issued by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority.
In a tweet, the Ministry of Civil Aviation in New Delhi termed the move a "great news" and a "big relief to air passengers".
Pakistan had earlier claimed that it would not open its airspace for commercial flights until India removed its fighter jets from forwarding Indian airbases.
Pakistan had fully shut its airspace on the eastern border with India after the Indian Air Force had carried out airstrikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakoton February 26.
The strikes on the terror camp were in response to the JeM-perpetrated terror attack in
Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14 in which 40 CRPF personnel had lost their lives.
In mid-April, Pakistan opened one of its 11 air routes for westbound flights from India -- airlines like Air India and Turkish Airlines have started using it.
In March, the neighbouring country partially opened its airspace but did not allow Indian flights to fly over its airspace. (ANI)

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