New Delhi: Pakistan has opened up one overflight route for international airlines, though several restrictions remain in place, according to airline officials. The opening up of the overflight route has sparked hope in the Indian aviation sector that Islamabad could further ease curbs on the use of its airspace.

An overflight route south of Pakistan was opened up on Thursday, offering marginal saving of time for some flights, according to an official at Air India. “We are waiting for instructions from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The route that has been opened up allows for a saving of 15 minutes of flight time,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The airspace curbs that have been put in place are applicable till 10 April, with the exception of 11 routes, according to a notice issued by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority on Wednesday. It has since then added a couple of more routes to the exempted list.

International air travellers to and from north India have had to endure longer travel times and baggage restrictions since Pakistan introduced the airspace curbs on 27 February amid escalating tensions with India. Pakistan has since been extending restrictions on foreign carriers using its airspace.

Air India has operated all its international flights by taking a detour to Mumbai and overflying the Arabian Sea. The national carrier has also introduced stopovers at Mumbai and Vienna on its international flights.

Air India has cut the permissible baggage from two pieces to one in the Mumbai-New York-Mumbai route to carry more fuel, said the company official quoted above.

SpiceJet cancelled its flight to Kabul in the wake of the Pakistan airspace restrictions. At present, some Gulf carriers and Pakistani airlines operate commercial flights over Pakistan airspace.

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