Pakistan’s Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat told the national parliamentary committee that Pakistan has dismissed India’s request to open the airspace until the latter de-escalates.
“The Indian government approached asking us to open the airspace. We conveyed our concerns that first India must withdraw its fighter planes placed forward,” Nusrat told the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation.
The aviation secretary was responding to questions from members of the committee, who were inquiring about profitable and loss-making routes of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
PIA Chief Executive Officer Air Marshal Arshad Malik presented to the committee members details of seven new routes that had been introduced to earn profits. Five loss-making routes were closed, he added.
According to the senior official, PIA revenue had jumped by 34 per cent after saving 20pc on operation costs, improving cargo services, controlling delays, fuel management and centralising food procurement.
Pakistan’s eastern airspace has been closed for all over-flights and transit flights. However, flight operations are continued as per routine on the Eastern Air Side and the Western airspace.
Pakistan took the decision to shut its airspace on February 27, deciding to send India a strong message and forcing carriers to reroute flights, following an aerial dogfight between Pakistan and Indian fighter jets.
Since the Feb 27 air combat, the closure of Pakistan’s eastern airspace has been consistently extending, while flight operations on the other sides remain functional.
In March, The Indian Air Force (IAF) conducted an operational exercise over the skies of border areas in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab to test its combat readiness. Close to 50 fighter planes, drawn from four combat squadrons, took part in the drill.
Earlier this month, India media reported that Indian Air Force (IAF) has planned a major air exercise in Jammu and Kashmir to check responses by IAF in case neighbouring Pakistan plans any misadventure.
Previously, Pakistan granted special permission to the request of Indian government to let its Minister for External Affairs (MEA) Sushma Swaraj overflight when she was headed to attend Shanghai Cooperation Organisation session in Bishkek on May 21.
In the wake of airspace closure, Indian media reports say that the flights of several airlines around the world have been either re-routed or canceled, with as many as 400 flights being affected on a daily basis. Out of all the airlines, Air India is one of the worst-hit airlines.