Flights from major international carriers were forced to reroute on Wednesday to avoid Pakistani airspace after Pakistan said it shot down two Indian aircraft over its territory. The incident marked the latest escalation in a growing crisis between India and Pakistan, both of which are nuclear-armed.
On Tuesday (Feb. 26), India sent fighter jets over the unofficial border between the two countries for the first time in nearly 50 years, launching an airstrike in Pakistan. India claimed to have targeted a training camp used by the militant group Indian officials say killed 40 Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir earlier this month, but Pakistani officials said the strike targeted a wooded area.
As The Washington Post reported Wednesday, India confirmed that one plane was shot down by Pakistan and that a pilot was missing. It also said a Pakistani jet was downed, but that was not confirmed by Islamabad.
The incident led to the closure of Pakistani airspace and multiple airports in India, forcing flights that planned to cross through the two countries to reroute and in some cases return to their departure points.
Flights from major airlines, including British Airways and Air India, had to reroute to avoid transiting over Indian and Pakistani airspace. Multiple Indian airlines tweeted that passenger flights were delayed because of airport closures. Some flights were sent back to their starting point, reported Flightradar24, a group that tracks air traffic.
Images released by the flight-monitoring group showed the stark contrast between flight traffic over Pakistan one month ago vs. on Wednesday, when there were no flights seen overhead.
The group also said in a tweet that a SpiceJet flight from Kabul to Delhi that would normally take one hour and 40 minutes would take four hours longer on Wednesday to avoid Pakistani airspace. Reuters reported that airlines including Emirates and Qatar Airways suspended their flights to Pakistan. An Indian government official told the news agency that flights headed to Europe and elsewhere were being rerouted through Mumbai.