Int'l flights affected as Pakistan closes its airspace

Published On: March 1, 2019 06:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Flights to various Gulf destinations and Turkey use Lima 302 route

KATHMANDU, Mar 1: Several international flights connecting Kathmandu with various Gulf destinations including Turkey were forced to re-route after Pakistan closed its airspace on Wednesday amid rising tension with India.

Flights of Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways to and from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu were suspended on Wednesday amid Pakistan's announcement to close its airspace due to possible reprisal attacks from Indian Air Force (IAF) after it gunned down an IAF fighter plane and captured its wing commander.

While the suspended flight of Turkish Airlines left Kathmandu at 3 am Thursday, Qatar Airways, which also faces air blockade from a number of its neighboring countries, could not fly to its destination even on Thursday.

General Manager of the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) Raj Kumar Chhetri said things have already come to normalcy after the flights using Pakistani airspace began using new routes. “Flights using Pakistani airspace are flying straight south up to Ahmadabad, India and then head toward the West to avoid Pakistani airspace,” he told Republica. “These flights are now using LIMA 302 route.”

Flights taking off from Kathmandu to Gulf and Europe were using Delhi route that passes through Pakistani airspace, which is the primary route for South Asia, South East Asia and Europe. Change in their normal route means the flights are not only taking long time, but also costing the airlines significantly huge fuel costs. Aviation experts expressed worry that airfare to the Gulf and Turkey and other European destinations could go up should the Indo-Pak tension continued.

Although hundreds of flights connecting Asia and Europe have reportedly been canceled, General Manager Chhetri said they did not have any such cases on Thursday. “All flights are arriving and taking off as per their normal schedules,” Chhetri further said.

Tara Air and Yeti Airlines cancel all flights on Friday

Nepal's leading private airlines Tara Air and Yeti Airlines have cancelled all their flights on Friday to mourn the death of their Managing Director Ang Tshiring Sherpa. Sherpa was among the seven persons including Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari who were killed in a helicopter accident on Wednesday.

Issuing a press statement, the airlines said they have suffered an irreparable loss due to Sherpa's sudden demise. “In order to honor his memory we will not be operating any flights on March 1, 2019,” the statement said. While Tara Airlines most operate in rural districts, Yeti Airlines mainly operate in urban destinations.


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