Thousands scramble as Thai Airways cancels flights over Pakistan

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Thai airways canceled 11 European-bound flights after Pakistan closed its airspace as tensions with India mount, the carrier said Feb. 28. (AFP)
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A Thai Airways staff speaks to stranded passengers at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok on Feb. 28, 2019. (AFP)
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Thai Airways said later on Thursday it would resume flights after gaining permission from China to use its airspace. (AFP)
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The move affected thousands of passengers at the height of the country’s busy tourist season. (AFP)
Updated 28 February 2019

Thousands scramble as Thai Airways cancels flights over Pakistan

  • About 5,000 passengers were affected by the issue
  • Thailand is among the world’s most popular tourist destinations, receiving more than 38 million visitors last year

BANGKOK: Thousands of travelers were left scrambling on Thursday when Thai Airways International canceled more than a dozen flights to and from Europe after Pakistan closed its airspace amid rising tensions with India.
Flights to and from London, Munich, Paris, Brussels, Milan, Vienna, Stockholm, Zurich, Copenhagen, Oslo, Frankfurt, and Rome had been scheduled to fly over Pakistani airspace on Thursday, Thai Airways said in a statement.
That left passengers scheduled to leave Thailand’s main Suvarnabhumi International Airport searching to find alternative flights early on Thursday. Most of Thai’s European flights leave after midnight.
“Last night there were about 5,000 passengers who came to check-in but unable to fly, mostly Thai Airways,” Col. Umnart Chomshai, superintendent of tourism police at Suvarnabhumi Airport, told Reuters.
Another airport official said a help center had been set up for stranded travelers.
Thai Airways said later on Thursday it would resume flights after gaining permission from China to use its airspace for nearly a dozen flights to Europe set to leave on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
However, it said all flights to and from Pakistan were canceled. The airline operates one flight a day to Karachi and Lahore and four flights per week to Islamabad.
Thailand is among the world’s most popular tourist destinations, receiving more than 38 million visitors last year.
Pakistan closed its airspace after India and Pakistan both claimed to have shot down the other’s fighter jets on Wednesday, with Pakistan capturing an Indian pilot a day after Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistan for the first time since a 1971 war.
World powers have urged restraint between the two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors, who have fought three wars over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Many airlines route flights over Pakistan, so the closure of its airspace caused major disruptions on Wednesday.
Several airlines, including Emirates and Qatar Airways, suspended flights to Pakistan and others, such as Singapore Airlines and British Airways, were forced to reroute flights.
On Thursday, Singapore Airlines said all of its Europe-bound flights would now continue as planned, without the need for refueling stops, and they would reroute to avoid the affected airspace as necessary.
Malaysia Airlines said on its website it was not currently flying over the affected airspace and was avoiding Pakistan and northern Indian airspace for flights to and from Europe until further notice.
Tensions have been running high since at least 40 Indian paramilitary police were killed in a Feb. 14 suicide car bombing claimed by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir.


Germany extends distancing rules to end of June

Updated 3 min 20 sec ago

Germany extends distancing rules to end of June

BERLIN: Germany has extended social distancing rules aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus epidemic to June 29, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government said on Tuesday.
Up to 10 people will be allowed to gather in public places but Germans should be in contact with as few people as possible, according to the rules agreed between the federal government and 16 states.
Merkel’s government had been embroiled in disagreements with the least-affected states, some of which wanted to ditch the measures and open up entirely.
Germany’s virus caseload now tops 179,000 with just over 8,300 deaths — much lower than European counterparts such as Britain, France, Spain and Italy.
“This success is mainly based on the fact that the rules on distance and hygiene have been implemented and respected,” the government and the regions said.
However, officials warned that further restrictions could be imposed if local outbreaks made them necessary.