- Flight with 120 passengers intercepted by Pak fighter jets on Sept 23
- Confusion over "call-sign" led to interception, said officials
- Flight allowed to proceed, fighters escorted it till it left Pak airspace
A SpiceJet aircraft on its way to Kabul from New Delhi with 120 passengers on board was intercepted by Pakistan Air Force fighter jets which then escorted the airliner out of the country's airspace last month, sources in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said today. The incident took place on September 23.
According to DGCA officials, there was confusion over the "call-sign" assigned to the Boeing 737 aircraft when it entered Pakistani airspace prompting the interception.
The aircraft was asked to lower its altitude by the Pakistani Air Force fighters, which news agency ANI reported were F-16s.
The pilots of the SpiceJet flight communicated with Pakistani Air Force fighters, identifying themselves as a commercial airliner.
The Spicejet aircraft was allowed to continue its flight and was escorted until it entered Afghan airspace.
DGCA officials declined to share further details given the sensitivity of the matter.
SpiceJet has not commented on this incident so far.
Pakistan had closed its airspace to India after the air strikes on the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp at Balakot on February 26. But it opted for a partial opening again in July. Days later, its aviation minister said his country suffered loses of over $50 million from the airspace restrictions, news agency Reuters reported.
Last month, it refused to allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use its airspace while travelling to the United States and President Ram Nath Kovind during his visit to Iceland. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi attributed Islamabad's decision to India's "recent behaviour" - a reference to the government's move to end the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories.
India's Ministry of External Affairs said it regretted Pakistan's decision to deny overflight clearance for the VVIP special flight "which is otherwise granted routinely by any normal country".
"Pakistan should reflect upon its decision to deviate from well-established international practice, as well as reconsider its old habit of misrepresenting the reasons for taking unilateral action," spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.