Gulf airlines cancel Pakistan flights as tensions grow

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan calls for talks with India to defuse the conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals
Gulf airlines cancel Pakistan flights as tensions grow
Emirates are among the Gulf-based airlines to cancel flights to Pakistan.
By Sam Bridge
Wed 27 Feb 2019 03:18 PM

Gulf-based airlines on Wednesday said they have suspended flights to Pakistan as Prime Minister Imran Khan called for talks with India to defuse the conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) announced that all airline flights to Pakistan will be suspended until further notice. In a statement, the GCAA said it will continue to monitor the situation in Pakistan and take appropriate decisions to ensure the safety of passengers and national carriers.

Etihad said flights EY233 and EY243, both due to depart from Abu Dhabi to Islamabad and Lahore, have been grounded until further notice while Emirates said a number of its flights to and from Pakistan and Afghanistan had been cancelled.

Bahrain's Gulf Air and Saudi Arabian Airlines also announced cancellations after Pakistan closed its airspace for commercial flights.

An Etihad spokesperson said: “This is an evolving situation and updates will follow as it develops. The safety and security of our guests will always be our no 1 priority at Etihad Airways and we continue to monitor the situation.”

An Emirates spokesperson advised passengers due to travel to check flight schedules on the airline's website and to contact Emirates reservations or their booking agent to make alternative arrangements.

"We continue to monitor the situation closely, and will update our customers as the situation develops,” the spokesperson said.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan called for talks with India on Wednesday.

"Can we afford any miscalculation with the kind of weapons that we have and you have?" he said in a televised statement after both sides said they had shot down each other's warplanes.

"I once again invite India to come to the negotiating table," said Khan, who has called for dialogue with New Delhi in the past.

"Better sense should prevail," he added, before alluding to the nuclear arsenal of both South Asian countries.

"If escalation begins from here, where will it go?"

Khan also repeated the military's earlier statement that it had shot down two Indian Air Force planes, which sent tensions spiralling on Wednesday, fuelling fears of a fresh conflict between India and Pakistan.

"Today we shot down two Indian MiGs which crossed our border," he said, adding: "Pilots are with us".

India has said that just one of its planes was shot down, but that it also shot down a Pakistani fighter jet in air battles over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

The Pakistani military has denied that any of its planes were downed.

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