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Pakistan set to end open skies in new civil aviation policy

Pakistan will drop its open skies policy under a new approved civil aviation policy by its cabinet on 26 March.

The country's information ministry states that the "open sky policy in Pakistan is being withdrawn," adding that agreements made with international carriers will be reviewed.

How the change in policy will be implemented is not clear, but it is expected to boost beleagured national carrier Pakistan International Airlines, which has faced strong competition from foreign carriers in recent years.

"This policy proved to be a great loss for PIA. Profitable routes were given to international airlines which led to a loss for PIA," information minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters during a press conference in Islamabad.

Cirium schedules data shows that PIA is the largest carrier operating international services to Pakistan, accounting for around 22% of operated seats during March 2019. Saudia and Emirates are the second largest operators, each accounting for around 14% of seats, while Qatar Airways accounts for 8%.

While the ministry adds that the new civil aviation policy will help to boost tourism and boost Pakistan's local aviation industry, with other changes set to encourage the development of regional services to tourist hotspots, and reforms to pilot licensing. Taxes will also be cut on domestic air services.

Local media reports also indicate that Pakistan will raise the age limit of passenger aircraft permitted to be imported into the country from 12 years to 18 years. Cargo aircraft that are less than 30 years old will also be allowed into the country.

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