India asks Pak to restore overflight clearance for Srinagar-Sharjah flights


NEW DELHI: India has asked Pakistan to continue granting overflight clearance for the recently launched Srinagar-Sharjah flight in the interest of people who have booked tickets for the route.

Since October 31, Pakistan has refused to allow the use of its airspace for the international flight, which was inaugurated by Union home minister Amit Shah on October 23.

Pakistani authorities initially granted overflight clearance to GoFirst airline’s flights on the Srinagar-Sharjah route for October 23, 24, 26 and 28, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

Subsequently, Pakistan put the clearance for flights on the same route on hold for the period from October 31 to November 30, the people said.

“This matter was promptly taken up with Pakistan through diplomatic channels and we have requested Pakistan to grant overflight clearance for this flight in the interest of the common people who booked tickets for this flight,” one of the people cited above said.

Since Pakistan refused to allow the use of its airspace, GoFirst has been forced to use a longer route from Tuesday. Political leaders have criticised the development.

The duration of the Srinagar-Sharjah flight has gone up by 45 minutes, increasing from three hours and 30 minutes to four hours and 15 minutes, according to a GoFirst official. The airline has also not ruled out an increase in the fare if the longer route remains in place.

Srinagar international airport director Kuldeep Singh said the flight received a good response, and the airline has had full occupancy.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah was among the politicians who were critical of Pakistan’s decision.

“Very unfortunate. Pakistan did the same thing with the Air India Express flight from Srinagar to Dubai in 2009-2010. I had hoped that @GoFirstairways being permitted to overfly Pak airspace was indicative of a thaw in relations, but alas that wasn’t to be,” he tweeted.

The first international flight from Srinagar airport to Dubai was launched in 2009. However, all international flights stopped after some time because of a variety of reasons, including Pakistan’s refusal to allow the use of its airspace.

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