Amid rising tensions with India, Pakistan has barred low flying aircraft over almost its entire airspace.
First Pakistan imposed restrictions on overflying below 33,000 feet in the Karachi airspace, it has now prohibited airlines from flying below 29,000 feet in Lahore as well.
Pakistan had issued a notice to airmen (Notam) that that some segments of international air traffic services “routes within Karachi flight information region (FIR)” will not be available from surface to 33,000 feet (flight level) due to “operational reasons”.
A Notam, or a notice, alerts aircraft pilots of potential hazards along a flight route.
This means that aircraft flying between Gulf and central and northeast India will have to maintain flight levels of at least 33,000 feet in the Karachi airspace and FIR.
The Lahore curbs are going to stay much longer — up to October 31.
As per an expert, the restricted airspace availability could delay flights to the west/Gulf which fly over Pakistan.
According to experts, putting lower level airspace out of bounds could be because of Pakistan military jets doing their manoeuvres and exercises.
They say that these tactics could be directed at India as Karachi is close to the Rajasthan and Gujarat border, while Lahore is close to J&K and Punjab.
Since almost all Indian carriers flying from north/west/east India to the west/Gulf fly over Pakistan, they have had to now work out alternative routes.
If these flights were not able to fly over Pakistan, then will go to Ahmedabad, fly over the Arabian Sea, proceed to Muscat airspace and then either go to the Gulf or fly westwards to Europe or North America.
The movement comes after Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) cancelled its flights to Gilgit and Shardul in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Chitral in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
It was not the first time that Pakistan has imposed these restrictions as during the 1999 Kargil war, Indian aircraft had stopped overflying Pakistan and were taking longer detours on their flights to and from west and the Gulf.