Toronto

Air Canada flight to India turns back after Pakistan closes airspace

An Air Canada flight from Toronto to Delhi turned back over Europe on Wednesday after the Pakistani government decided to close its airspace amid heightened tensions with India.

Airline has cancelled more flights to India

Air Canada's flight to Delhi made it across the Atlantic Ocean, before turning back to Toronto on Wednesday. (CBC)

An Air Canada flight from Toronto to Delhi turned back over Europe on Wednesday after the Pakistani government decided to close its airspace amid heightened tensions with India.

The flight departed Toronto at 9:39 p.m. ET Tuesday and was in the air for nearly 14 hours before it landed back in the city around midday Wednesday. It had already crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was flying over Europe when it turned around.

Air Canada temporarily suspended service to India on Tuesday, a spokesperson said in an email.

The airline had cancelled a Delhi-bound flight from Vancouver on Tuesday night, and said Wednesday it had cancelled that night's flights to Delhi from both Toronto and Vancouver, saying there are currently no suitable alternate routes.

"We continue to monitor this situation closely, and flights to Delhi will operate as soon as operationally feasible," said spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick in an email. He said the airline has put a "flexible rebooking policy" in place for customers.

Air Canada said its flight from Toronto to Mumbai is expected to go ahead Wednesday night because it takes a different route.

The Air Canada flight to India departed Toronto around 9:39 p.m. ET Tuesday. (Travis Pereira/CBC)

Off the plane in Toronto Wednesday afternoon, exhausted travellers did not know when they would get to India.

One man said he thinks he will miss his brother's wedding.

'Grateful' for safety considerations

But passenger Pal Brar said she was "grateful that they were considering the safety of everybody."

"[The] flight could be tomorrow or the day after, but to be safe is more important than anything else," she said.

Passenger Pal Brar said she was grateful that safety was the foremost consideration. (CBC)

However, Brar said she had hoped Air Canada would better communicate with passengers.

"They're giving us information in pieces as we are moving forward," said Brar, who planned to visit family in India.

Passenger Sumit Mahajan said the in-flight crew was patient.

"People were frustrated, but I think they were being transparent in that they didn't have the answers," he said.

Air Canada said it does not have any aircraft on the ground in India, and all flights from India to Canada have returned as scheduled. 

Air Canada said it normally operates daily flights to Delhi from Toronto and Vancouver and flies from Toronto to Mumbai four times a week.

Pakistan said it shot down two Indian military jets on Wednesday and captured a pilot, a day after Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistan in what New Delhi said targeted a terrorist training camp. With tensions between the two nations escalated, leading powers have urged the nuclear armed rivals to show restraint. 

With files from Reuters

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