Pakistan airspace restrictions extended to May 30: aviation official

An arial view of the airplane hub at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Caren Firouz/Files

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan has extended airspace restrictions until the end of May, a civil aviation official said on Thursday, forcing foreign carriers to take costly detours since the country’s standoff with rival India.

Pakistan closed its airspace in February after a suicide bomber from Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e- Mohammed (JeM) attacked a convoy in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Following the attack, both countries carried out aerial bombing missions on each other’s soil and their warplanes also fought a dogfight over Kashmir.

Partial operations at Pakistani airports resumed after the crisis eased, but foreign carriers using Indian airspace could not fly over Pakistan. The restrictions mainly affected flights from Europe to Southeast Asia.

“The airspace will be restricted until May 30 and then we will reassess,” Mustafa Baig, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, told Reuters.

He did not give a reason for the extension.

Pakistan lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor and the airspace restrictions impact hundreds of commercial and cargo flights each day, adding flight time for passengers and fuel costs for airlines.

Reporting by Saad Sayeed; editing by Darren Schuettler