Dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed over north India on Wednesday because of airspace closures and a high alert after the first aerial encounter between the Indian Air Force and Pakistani fighter jets over the Line of Control in nearly half a century. In Delhi alone, as many as 47 flights were cancelled while 16 flights were cancelled in Mumbai.
Canada’s largest airline Air Canada said it was temporarily suspending services to India following a decision by the Pakistani government to close its airspace. Several other airlines such as Air India, Jet Airways, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines announced they were rerouting their flights in the wake of escalating India-Pakistan tensions.
This morning, based on instructions of the Air Force, nine airports over the northern states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh were closed. The order, which affected key airports like Jammu, Srinagar, Leh and Amritsar, was later withdrawn and operations resumed at some airports.
Out of the 47 flights cancelled from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, 25 were departures and 22 were arrivals, news agency ANI reported. In addition to this, four flights, two each from the domestic and international sector were diverted from other destinations to Delhi.
At the Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport, eight arrivals and eight departures were cancelled during the day.
A Dubai-bound Jet Airways flight from Delhi was asked by Pakistan air traffic control to return and not use Pakistani airspace.
Budget carrier SpiceJet said it is providing a full refund to passengers whose flights were cancelled on Wednesday but did not give the number of flights it cancelled. Those not cancelling flights have been re-booked on other flights of their choice at no extra charge, it said, adding it will not operate its Kabul flight till Thursday.
Full-service Vistsra in a tweet said it plans to operate regular services to Amritsar, Jammu, Chandigarh, Srinagar and Leh from Thursday.
Air India said it has re-routed its flights to and from the USA and Europe. Operations in South India are not affected, it added.
A spokeswoman for Air Canada said on Wednesday that it had cancelled one flight to India from Vancouver and another flight en route to Delhi has turned back to Toronto.
The carrier, which operates daily service from Toronto and Vancouver to Delhi and four times weekly between Toronto and Mumbai said will “monitor the situation”.2
In the worst escalation of hostilities between India and Pakistan in decades, a day after the Indian Air Force strike to target a terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot, fighter jets of both sides engaged in direct battle. India said it had shot down a Pakistani fighter jet while losing one of its own. An Indian pilot was captured by Pakistan.