Airspace reopened to civil aviation "with immediate effect," Pakistan's aviation authority says, following months of curbs imposed in the wake of tensions with India since February sparked by a suicide attack on Indian troops in disputed Kashmir.
Pakistan on Tuesday fully reopened its airspace for all civilian traffic, ending months of restrictions affecting major international routes including from India after clashes between the nuclear-armed rivals brought them to the brink of war.
"With immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic," the state-run Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said.
A CAA spokesman confirmed to AFP news agency that the eastern airspace along the border with India had been reopened.
A few hours ago, Pakistan reopened its airspace to all commercial traffic. Some fights have begun to revert to routings used prior to 27 February already.— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) July 15, 2019
See https://t.co/9NeSPvJkSy for relevant Notams and how the airspace has been affecting since February. pic.twitter.com/EYyFw3WJMT
Closure hit Indian aviation
Pakistan closed its airspace completely after aerial dogfights in February ratcheted up tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi. It removed some restrictions a month later but kept constraints in place along its eastern border with India.
The closure disrupted Indian flights headed west, forced Pakistan International Airlines to suspend some of its flights, and effectively closed off major international routes in and out of Islamabad and Lahore, such as the Thai Airways route from Islamabad to Bangkok.
India's flag carrier Air India reportedly saw a daily loss of approximately $0.7 to $1 million as its flights towards Europe and the US were forced to take a longer route as well as make a stop en route for refuelling.
Pakistan lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor and the airspace restrictions affected hundreds of commercial and cargo flights each day, adding to flight time for passengers and fuel costs for airlines.
The announcement came hours after United Airlines Holdings Inc said it was extending the suspension of its flights from the United States to Delhi and Mumbai in India until Oct. 26, citing continued restrictions of Pakistani airspace.
The crisis between the countries was first sparked by a suicide bombing in India-administered Kashmir in February that killed 40 Indian troops and was later claimed by the Pakistan-based and proscribed Jaish-e-Mohammad.
Days later India ordered air strikes on what he described as a training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad in Pakistan's northern Balakot area. The move backfired as the fighter jets missed the intended target, ratcheting up tensions in the region.
In turn, Pakistan launched air strikes in India-administered Kashmir the next day, shooting down two Indian planes in an aerial dogfight, and capturing Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. India says only one of its jets was downed, however.
As a 'goodwill' gesture, Pakistan released the pilot later.
Pakistani and Indian soldiers have continued to fire over the Line of Control, the de facto border dividing Kashmir, killing several civilians on both sides.
Both countries administer part of Kashmir but claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety.
Resistance groups demand that Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country in a UN-backed or sponsored plebiscite.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir's mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels' cause against Indian rule.
Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since 1989.