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Airspace closure caused over Rs8bn loss: minister

Updated July 19, 2019

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An aerial view of the airplane hub at the airport in Karachi's Jinnah International Airport. — Reuters/File
An aerial view of the airplane hub at the airport in Karachi's Jinnah International Airport. — Reuters/File

KARACHI: Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan said on Thursday that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) suffered a loss of Rs8.5 billion because of airspace restrictions since February in the wake of Indian aggression.

Read: Pakistan reopens airspace for civil aviation after nearly five months

“It’s a huge loss for our overall [aviation] industry,” he said. “But this restriction hit India harder than Pakistan. The loss of India is almost double. But at this juncture détente and harmony are required from both sides.”

Addressing a press conference at the CAA headquarters, the minister said CAA’s restructuring was being executed purely on technical grounds, which would infuse new momentum in the organisation.

“The recent bifurcation of CAA functions into regulatory roles vis-à-vis commercial and service provider is simply to optimise its efficiency and performance. There is no proposal of any downsizing or rightsizing in the CAA after its bifurcation. We believe that new measures would spur growth in the national aviation and fetch far-reaching benefits,” he added.

Referring to the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said it was government’s priority to revamp the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and increase its fleet to 45 by phasing-in 14 new aircraft gradually by 2025.

CAA, PIA or ASF headquarters not being shifted to Islamabad

“Earlier, our domestic airlines did not have space to expand their operations because of open sky policies. Therefore, the open sky policy has now been switched over to fair sky policy which offers equal opportunities to domestic air operators to expand their business,” said Mr Khan.

He acknowledged that under the Aviation Policy, 2019, security agencies would be equipped with latest equipment and scanners to meet international standards.

The minister termed the resumption of British Airways flights a success of the Pakistani aviation industry and said that many other international airlines were approaching the government to start their operations in Pakistan.

“There is no plan to shift the headquarters of CAA, PIA or Airport Security Force (ASF) to Islamabad,” he replied to a question.

He, however, said approximately 60 per cent of activities related to aviation had already been shifted to the northern part of Pakistan and accordingly more manpower may be deployed at Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2019