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Passengers Stranded After Pakistan Closes Airspace To Commercial Traffic

Stranded passengers wait at the check-in area at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok on February 28.

Pakistan’s decision to close its airspace amid rising tensions and aerial dogfights with neighboring India has left many tourists stranded in Asian cities when airlines were forced to cancel flights.

Thai Airways, Emirates, and Qatar Airways were among the carriers forced to cancel their flights, many to and from Europe, on February 27 because the flights were scheduled to fly to Pakistan or over its airspace.

Etihad, flydubai, Gulf Air, SriLankan Airlines, and Air Canada also canceled flights.

Singapore Airlines and British Airways were among those forced to reroute flights.

Pakistan closed its airspace after Islamabad and New Delhi claimed to have shot down the other's fighter jets earlier in the day. Pakistan said it captured an Indian pilot after its air force shot down an Indian warplane.

The activity came after Indian jets on February 26 struck inside Pakistan for the first time since a 1971 war, claiming to hit the training base used by a terror group that had killed at least 41 Indian paramilitary soldiers inside India-administered Kashmir on February 14.

The Thai flag carrier said 27 of its flights were canceled on February 27, with three passenger jets being forced to return to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport after having taken off earlier in the day.

The airline said some 5,000 passengers had been caught up in the cancellations.

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

"We are waiting for permission to fly over other countries," she said, adding that Iran had rejected a request to allow flights over its airspace.

Pakistan aviation officials said the country's airspace would likely reopen as of midnight on February 28.

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and The Express