A SpiceJet Boeing 737 carrying out flight SG21 from New Delhi (DEL) to Kabul (KBL) was intercepted by Pakistan Air Force fighter jets when it entered the country’s airspace.
The airliner, with 120 passengers on board, was then escorted by the F-16 fighter jets until it reached the Afghani airspace, an official of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation told ANI News. The mishap might have resulted from a confusion over the flight call sign by the Pakistani ATC, which led the authorities to believe it was an unscheduled flight.
The incident took place on September 23, 2019, a month after Pakistan reopened its airspace to Indian flights. On February 27, 2019, a violent escalation saw the air forces of the two countries fight each other over the disputed Kashmir region, resulting in the loss of an Indian MiG-21. Hours later, Pakistan had announced it would close its airspace.
The restriction forced flights between Europe and Southeast Asia to fly further south. Air India suffered $71.6 million of losses, according to India’s aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri, quoted by Reuters. The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority announced its airspace was reopened months later, on July 16, 2019.
Miscommunication can often lead to such situations. On January 16, 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777 freighter, performing a non-scheduled flight from Ethiopia to Singapore, was intercepted as it entered the Indonesian airspace. It was then escorted by Indonesian F-16 fighter jets towards the nearest airport where it was forced to land. Indonesian authorities justified the interception saying the flight had no overflight permit, to which Ethiopian authorities responded it did not need.