After a gap of over three months, Etihad’s Abu Dhabi to New Delhi flight became the first to fly through Pakistani airspace. India and Pakistan had closed airspaces following the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) strikes at Balakot on February 26. Etihad Airways’ EY224 entered India from Gujarat after flying through Pakistan at 5.34 p.m., four minutes after one route between India and Pakistan was opened for flights from Pakistan, The Hindu quoted a senior official of the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MCA) as saying.
“The airline operated an Airbus A321 aircraft. It departed from Abu Dhabi at 3.10 p.m. and landed in New Delhi at 7 p.m. It was able to save 40 minutes in flight duration compared with the re-routed flight it has been operating due to airspace curbs,” according to aviation website flightradar24.com.
On Friday, the Indian Air Force in a tweet wrote: "Temporary restrictions on all air routes in the Indian airspace, imposed by the Indian Air Force on 27 Feb 19, have been removed."
For Pakistani passengers to reach these destinations - Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok - they had to take connecting flights from the Gulf. Airlines from central and west Asia now take much longer routes. For example, Delhi-Astana flight took three extra hours while Delhi to Moscow flight took more than two additional hours.
Pakistan also had fully closed its airspace on February 27 following an IAF strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Balakot. On March 27, it opened its airspace for all flights except for New Delhi, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. On May 15, Pakistan extended its airspace ban for flights to India till May 30.
As a result of the ban, foreign carriers using Indian airspace have been forced to take costly detours because they cannot fly over Pakistan. The closure mainly affects flights from Europe to Southeast Asia. The flights from Europe and the US flying in and out of New Delhi have been the worst hit.
Thousands of travellers suffer flight cancellations, delays and soaring ticket prices due to Pakistan's decision to close its airspace for flights to and from India.