GP Insights # 106, 20 July 2019
After fully closing their airspace on 26 February 2019, Pakistan partially opened its airspace in March 2019. On 16 July 2019, Normal air traffic operations between India and Pakistan resumed, and Islamabad opened its airspace for all civilian flights. The earlier open sky policy has now been switched over to fair sky policy which offers equal opportunities to domestic air operators to expand their businesses. Previously, domestic airlines did not have space to expand their operations because of open sky policies.
What is the background?
Five months after closing the airspace due to escalating tensions between Pakistan and India; Pakistan reopened its airspace, with a NOTAMS, "With immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all types of civil traffic on published ATS (Air Traffic Service) routes." Indian Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, stated to India's upper house of parliament that the airspace closure had cost the Indian airlines more than $80.1m loss. The bulk of the losses affected Air India, the national flag carrier, which lost more than $71.65m; other carriers affected include Indian airlines SpiceJet ($4.48m), IndiGo ($3.66m) and GoAir ($0.3m). Pakistan is reported to have lost $50 billion by closing its airspace.
Additionally, this situation led to carriers having to fly around Pakistan rather than over it. This diversion resulted in flight times to India (especially Delhi) and SouthEast Asia to increase significantly. After it was reopened, fares to the US, Europe dropped by 15-20%. Immediately, aviation minister H S Puri tweeted that India would resume its tri-weekly Delhi- Amritsar- Birmingham service.
What does it mean?
It took five strong months for Pakistan airspace to remain closed, despite requests from India. Eventually, the logistics and economics of the issue made the upper hand. This period was necessary to understand the level of economic and geographical interdependence that the two nations have. Pakistan chose to forego their condition to have India remove its fighter jets from the vicinity, this speaks for itself.