Pakistan airspace re-opens but 2,000 tourists still stranded in Thailand after airstrike

04-Mar-2019 Intellasia | Express | 6:00 AM Print This Post

FOUR Pakistani airports have begun partial operations on Friday after airspace was re-opened following clashes with India, but travel chaos is still expected for days to come.

About 2,000 tourists from Europe were today still stranded in Thailand’s capital Bangkok after the airspace was closed earlier this week. Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority said services would resume fully by Monday, following their suspension after military tensions with India erupted earlier this week. A spokeswoman said Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta airports would begin some flights on Friday from 11am (4pm local time) with the remainder opening next week.

She said: “These four airports will resume flight operations partially today.”

She said airspace for all commercial flights would be re-opened on March 4 at 8am GMT (1pm local time).

The decision to re-open Pakistani airspace came amid signs that the conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbours was cooling with an Indian pilot shot down and captured by Pakistani forces this week due to be returned home on Friday.

The closure of Pakistan’s airspace has disrupted not just the country’s own air transport but also flights worldwide as airlines were forced to cancel or reroute flights to other destinations that pass over Pakistan.

This week flights between Asia and Europe were severely affected by the closure, with thousands of passengers stranded, although airlines were later able to reroute many flights through China that normally pass over Pakistan.

About 2,000 travellers were still stranded in the Thai capital Bangkok, airline officials said.

Thai Airways International cancelled more than a dozen flights to European citiesincluding London, Paris, Milan, Zurich and Frankfurtafter Pakistan closed its airspace on Wednesday amid rising tensions with India.

“There are still about 2,000 passengers,” Thai Airways President Sumeth Damrongchaitham told reporters at a briefing to announce the company’s financial results.

The backlog would be cleared over the next two or three days, he said.

Nearly 5,000 passengersmost of them flying on Thai Airways and Taiwan’s EVA Airwaysscrambled to find alternative flights from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport after Pakistan closed its airspace on Wednesday.

Thailand is among the world’s most popular tourist destinations, drawing more than 38 million visitors last year, about 6.8 million of them from Europe.

Rival carriers like Singapore Airlines re-routed their European flights to avoid the affected airspace, but Thai Airways did not have routes over Iranian or Turkish airspace, Sumeth said.

Thailand’s national carrier eventually gained permission from China to use its airspace and resumed flights to Europe on Thursday evening.

The financial cost of the flight disruptions was still being assessed and could be covered by insurance, Sumeth said.

Investors pushed Thai Airways stock down over 3 percent on Friday after the state-owned airline reported a wider loss of GBP 277.3million (11.6 billion baht) in 2018 due to higher fuel expenses.


Category: Thailand

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