UAE carriers cancel flights to Pakistan amidst war tension

Published: Thursday, February 28, 2019

Travellers flying out of the UAE to Pakistan and India have been advised to continue monitoring the status of their flights in view of the escalating conflict between the two countries.

Flights to all Pakistani airports from Dubai and Abu Dhabi were cancelled on Wednesday, leaving scores of passengers stranded at terminals. Some flights to India have been affected as well, including those operated by Spicejet, Indigo and Airblue.

UAE-based carrier flydubai cancelled Wednesday’s and Thursday’s flights to a number of destinations, including Faisalabad, Multan, Sialkot and Karachi in Pakistan. Emirates also cancelled trips to and from Pakistan, including destinations like Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore.

At Sharjah airport, Air Arabia flights to Lahore and Karachi were cancelled, as well as at least one Airblue flight to Islamabad, according to Skyscanner’s flight tracker.

“Due to the closure of Pakistani and Afghanistan air space, a number of Emirates flights to/from Pakistan and Afghanistan on 27 and 28 February have been cancelled. The latest flight schedules can be found on Affected passengers are requested to contact their booking agent or Emirates reservations to rebook their flights or make alternative travel arrangements,” the airline said in a statement to Gulf News.

“We are sorry for any inconvenience caused to our customers. The safety of our passengers and crew is of the utmost importance and will not be compromised.”

“Dubai Airports confirms flights to and from Pakistan have been impacted until further notice due to the closure of Pakistani airspace,” a Dubai Airports spokesperson said.

“Dubai Airports is working closely with airlines, control authorities and air traffic controllers to minimise operational impact and customer inconvenience. Dubai Airports will continue to closely monitor the situation. Passengers on affected flights are advised to check with their respective airlines for updates.”

Flyers were told to continue monitoring the situation and check for any possible flight changes.

“Following the closure of the airspace in Pakistan flydubai has advised passengers to check the flight status on flydubai is reviewing its schedule and further updates will be provided,” flydubai said in a statement to Gulf News.

Abu Dhabi Airport also urged all travellers to Pakistan to contact their airline companies for updates.

“The safety and security of our passengers is a priority for Abu Dhabi airports, and our staff is working to support and assist the affected passengers,” said Abu Dhabi Airport.

Stranded passengers

At Terminal 1 of Dubai International, scores of passengers from India and Pakistan were stranded, unable to decide whether they should go back home or wait for an update.

Munir Ali was scheduled to fly to Islamabad on an Airblue flight at 3:45pm, but like many others, he found out that his flight has been cancelled along with several others.

Businessman Mohammad Usman was heading to Mumbai on a Jet Airways flight, but the plane has been delayed and he is worried that he may not reach in time for his urgent meeting.

“Nobody is gaining out of this madness. War is not an option for anyone. Business worth millions will be lost in this. I have a meeting in Mumbai and I have to fly back to Dubai tomorrow. I think my whole schedule will be impacted,” said Usman, a Dubai resident from Mumbai.

Like Usman, several others have been affected due to the flight delays and cancellations.

Mohammad Sadiq, another Airblue passenger flying to Islamabad was worried, as he was scheduled to attend a wedding tomorrow.

Hasan Qadir from Ghazi, which is near Islamabad, was flying out on an emergency to attend a funeral in his hometown, but he is now stranded at Terminal 1. He is hoping his cancelled flight will be rescheduled.

“My aunt passed away this morning and I was flying to attend her funeral but the flight has been cancelled and I am afraid I won’t be able to see her one last time,” said Qadir.

A driver by profession, Qadir has been working in Dubai for 22 years and he said he has more Indians than Pakistanis as friends.

“Most of the people I work with are Indians and we love each other. We share our rooms and food and we are together in joy and sorrow. None of us wants war as it will mean destruction on both sides,” said Qadir, hoping that better sense would prevail.

Ramesh Patel from Ahmedabad, India, nodded in agreement as he waited for an update about his flight.

“My flight is at 7.30pm, but so far there is no update. I am on a visit visa and returning after a month’s tour. It will be difficult for me if the flight gets cancelled. See how only a few skirmishes affect people so much. Imagine what will happen if an all-out war starts. I hope peace will prevail,” said Patel.

And, as the scene heats up flights to even southern Indian cities like Calicut have also been cancelled.

Pakistani air space closure

Pakistan closed its air space for commercial use on Wednesday due to the security situation in the Asian state, prompting airlines to cancel their flights. Several airports including Srinagar, Jammu, Leh, Amritsar and Chandigarh have also been closed for civilian operation, airport sources said on Wednesday.

The Peshawar international airport will be used for military purposes until it is re-opened for commercial activities, an official told newspaper Dawn, adding that a red alert had also been issued.

In India, an order to shut down nine airports over the northern states of Jammua and Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh has been withdrawn. Flight operations have already resumed  at some airports, including Jammu, NDTV reported.

“As of now, ops to these airports resumed (sic),” a spokesperson of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation told news agency PTI.

The list of airports included Amritsar, Jammu, Srinagar and Leh, Kullu-Manali, Kangra, Shimla, Pathankot and Pithoragarh.