NEW DELHI: Relief is in sight for international flyers and airlines. Entry points for aircraft crossing over between the Pakistan and Indian airspace will finally start reopening from Sunday evening — 94 days after all 11 of these points were closed on February 27 post the Balakot strike. The beginning is being made with an east-bound point Telem near Ahmedabad.
This means a London-Delhi flight can overfly via this point. Telem will be the first entry point over land to reopen and then gradually, say sources, rest of the 10 points will allow access in phases in both directions — east to west and west to east. “One east-bound boundary point TELEM (near Ahmedabad) is being opened for flights from Pakistan airspace into Indian airspace from 5.30 pm (India time) on Sunday. Notice to airmen (Notam) are being issued both by India and Pakistan. Rest of points will be gradually opened in a phased manner,” said a senior official.
Indian officials at this point are unable to give an exact timeframe as airspace of many countries are involved in this process like India, Pakistan, Muscat, Afghanistan and Iran. Resuming the direct route of pre-February 27 will mean changing course in airspace of all these countries from the path being followed during closure days. While it may happen over the next few days, a firm timeframe is being drawn up.
India has informed the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation of its Air Force’s Friday decision of removing all temporary restrictions in our airspace since February 27.
“The 11 points will have to be gradually reopened so that airlines can accordingly plan their flight routings,” said the official. Doing so suddenly could lead to the same chaos that was witnessed on February 27 when Pakistan closed its airspace for overflying and then flights enroute at that time had to suddenly re-route at the last minute. Many, including Air India’s US-Delhi nonstops had to take fuelling stops in the Gulf before taking the longer routes to India over the Arabian Ocean to Mumbai — far enough to avoid Pakistan’s Karachi airspace over the ocean — before heading to their destination.
All the 11 points from where aircraft transit between India and Pakistan airspace were closed on February 27. Airlines have been losing money badly due to factors like extra fuel burn, crew requirement and fuelling stops.