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Kashmir conflict forces Philippine Airlines to delay New Delhi route opening

11 Mar 2019 by Craig Bright
Philippine Airlines Airbus A321neo

Long-time fans of Philippine Airlines no doubt would have been looking forward to the return of its non-stop flights between Manila and New Delhi on April 16 following a six-year absence, but travellers will have to wait a little longer for the route to take off following a decision by the airline to delay the launch.

The airline confirmed the decision to Business Traveller Asia-Pacific via a direct message on Twitter, citing the ongoing security issues regarding Pakistan’s air space. The new route no longer appears on the airline’s online schedule, and flights are no longer able to be booked. It’s unclear at this stage when the route will be able to take off.

“While we have announced plans to open new service between Manila and New Delhi, we wish to advise you that plans have been put on hold due to the current security issues in relation to Pakistan’s airspace. We shall keep you posted on any developments. We hope for your kind understanding,” the airline said.

Pakistan closed its airspace at the end of February following growing tensions with neighbour India over the disputed Kashmir region, in a move that caused significant disruption to flights between South East Asia and Europe. The country’s Civil Aviation Authority over the weekend said it would be reopening its airspace to international transit flights on Monday, March 11, The Economic Times reports.

Last month, a suicide bombing in the disputed region of Kashmir killed more than 40 Indian troops — the worst attack there in 30 years, according to a New York Times report. The bomber is believed to have belonged to the militant group Army of Muhammad, or Jaish-e-Muhammad, which is active in Pakistan despite being banned by the government there.

In response to the attack, Indian warplanes crossed into Pakistani airspace to strike what Indian officials said was a training camp for the militants. The aerial incursion was the first time Indian aircraft had crossed into Pakistan in decades.

The tensions escalated into an aerial dogfight that ended when a Pakistani jet shot down an Indian warplane and Pakistan’s military captured the pilot, the newspaper adds. In a “good-will gesture,” Pakistan handed over the Indian pilot this month, defusing tensions.

Philippine Airlines had planned to relaunch its New Delhi flights, which it last operated between 2011 and 2013, on April 16 as a thrice-weekly service with an additional weekly flight joining on May 2.

Flights were planned to be operated by the airline’s new Airbus A321neo aircraft, which features its brand new fully flat regional business class seat.

Philippine Airlines A321neo Business Class

Philippine Airlines has seen the launch of a few of its planned new routes delayed in recent months, notably its non-stop flights to Sapporo, Japan.

The service had been planned for a September launch but ended up being delayed by a number of months due to the magnitude-6.6 earthquake that hit Japan’s northern Hokkaido region in September.

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