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.


Texas court halts execution in high-profile case

A woman holds a sign during a protest against the execution of Rodney Reed on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Bastrop, Texas. (AP)
Updated 17 November 2019

Texas court halts execution in high-profile case

  • Millions of people, including US lawmakers and Hollywood celebrities Kim Kardashian and Susan Sarandon, have signed petitions supporting Reed

WASHINGTON: A Texas appeals court has suspended the execution of convicted murderer Rodney Reed — who has long claimed his innocence — in a case that has attracted widespread public attention and a celebrity-backed campaign.
Reed, a 51-year-old African-American, was sentenced to death in 1998 after being convicted by an all-white jury of the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old white woman.
His execution by lethal injection had been set for November 20, but Reed says he did not commit the crime, and his lawyers and supporters say that evidence proves he is innocent.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles announced on Friday that it had “voted unanimously to recommend the governor grant a 120-day reprieve” to Reed, who had appealed for clemency.
The state appeals court then halted the execution later in the evening.
Millions of people, including US lawmakers and Hollywood celebrities Kim Kardashian and Susan Sarandon, have signed petitions supporting Reed.
Kardashian said on social media she was with Reed when he received news about the reprieve.
Although traces of Reed’s DNA were found in the victim, he has always maintained that he and Stites were secretly having an affair.
Reed’s lawyers say that evidence obtained after the trial points to another suspect — the victim’s fiance, Jimmy Fennell, a former policeman who later served a 10-year prison sentence for another rape.
“The strong evidence exonerating Mr.Reed and implicating Fennell continues to mount,” the lawyers wrote in the clemency petition lodged with the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott.
In the clemency request, they included a testimonial from a former co-worker of the victim who confirmed the affair.
According to another affidavit, a former prison inmate said he heard Fennell brag during a prison yard conversation about committing the murder.
Fennell has denied involvement in Stites’ murder.
The Texas board declined Reed’s request to downgrade his sentence.
His lawyers also have filed a petition with the US Supreme Court, seeking a stay of execution.