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India-Pakistan tensions force Thai Airways to cancel flights

February 28, 2019

Flights have been canceled and rerouted after Pakistan closed its airspace due to tensions with India. Thousands of passengers have been stranded in Thailand.

A Thai Airways airbus
Image: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/N. Economou

Dozens of flights between Thailand and Europe have been canceled after Pakistan closed its airspace in response to soaring tensions with India, with both states claiming to have shot down each other's jets.

Thai Airways canceled 27 flights on Wednesday and Thursday, mostly to and from Europe, because they had been scheduled to fly over Pakistani airspace. Nearly 5,000 passengers are stranded in Thailand.

Read more: Nuclear fears abound after India-Pakistan military escalation

"There are 4,000 from European flights and 700 to 800 from flights to Pakistan," a Thai Airways spokesperson said.

Thailand's flagship carrier said it was requesting to fly over other countries' airspace.

Flights to and from London, Munich, Paris, Brussels, Milan, Vienna, Stockholm, Zurich, Copenhagen, Oslo, Frankfurt and Rome were among those affected.

The airline said it had put up passengers in hotels, but some customers were unhappy.

"We have waited here for 11 or 12 hours already," said Gerda Heinzel, a German tourist flying back to Munich. "We have not been given anything to eat, anywhere to stay. There are no German-speaking staff to help us."

Several other airlines have suspended flights to Pakistan and others were forced to reroute around the country's airspace.

Soaring tensions between nuclear-armed states 

Pakistan abruptly closed its airspace on Wednesday after it said it shot down two Indian Air Force jets that crossed into its airspace, with one Indian pilot being captured.

India also claimed to have shot down a Pakistani fighter jet, a day after India said it had carried out airstrikes on militant camps in the Pakistan-controlled area of divided Kashmir.

India closed its airspace briefly on Wednesday before resuming commercial flights at all of its airports.

The flare-up between the two nuclear-armed states came following days of skirmishes along the Line of Control separating the Indian- and Pakistan-controlled parts of Kashmir.

Read more: India and Pakistan's troubled history

Tensions have spiked since at least 40 Indian paramilitary police were killed in a February 14 suicide car bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir. India blamed the attack on Pakistan-based militants, charges Islamabad has denied.

cw/rgx (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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