Karachi: Iran has shut its airspace for Pakistani aircrafts over a USD 600,000 backlog of payments that may force flights of the national airline PIA to take the longer route in bringing Haj pilgrims back from Saudi Arabia, incurring increased costs in the process.

A senior official for the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) confirmed that Iran has shut its airspace to its aircraft due to a six-month backlog in transit payments amounting to around USD 600,000.

"We are hopeful that the matter would be resolved soon with the help of the government but we are also making arrangements to clear some of the payments," an airline official said.

The airlines which is a state-owned corporation that comes under the Ministry of Defence has in the last three years suffered losses of billions of rupees leading financial and political analysts to describe it as a "white elephant" for the government.

Insiders in the airlines say PIA is running into losses simply because appointments at every level are made on political connections and the corporation is overstaffed.

PIA officials said the ban may affect the shorter route for flights carrying returning Hajis from Saudi Arabia via Iranian airspace.

The flights, the first of which are expected to start tomorrow, would have to take a longer and slightly expensive route over Oman.

In the past, European Union countries have also banned PIA flights from their airspace due to different issues like safety standards of the aircrafts used by the national airlines.

(Agencies)