Pak Airspace Opening To "Drastically Reduce Expenses": Top Air India Official

Pakistan closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force carried out a cross-border strike targeting a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot

Pak Airspace Opening To 'Drastically Reduce Expenses': Top Air India Official

Forced re-routing of its flights due to Pak shutting its airspace cost Air India Rs 4 crore a day

New Delhi:

The re-opening of airspace over Pakistan to civilian and commercial flights will "definitely reduce expenses drastically" and greatly benefit both Indian and international carriers, Air India, Director (Operations) Captain Amitabh Singh said today.

Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority re-opened its airspace yesterday, after it was closed on February 26 because of a cross-border strike carried out by the Indian Air Force. The Air Force had targeted a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot in retaliation for the Pulwama attack twelve days earlier that claimed the lives of 40 soldiers.

"With this opening, we will be saving 1.5-2 hours of flying time between India-Europe and India-USA. We will save on fuel consumption too. The expenses will definitely reduce drastically," Captain Singh told news agency ANI today.

"It is going to be beneficial for Indian carriers as well as for foreign carriers. The closure generated a lot of inconvenience for the travelling public," he added.

The closure of Pakistani airspace had adversely affected airlines because they were forced to re-route international flights travelling to the United States and Europe, incurring both monetary losses (increased fuel and cabin crew costs) and delayed services.

The re-routing meant an extra 90 minutes of flying time for US-bound flights. This also translated into an extra stop for fuel and a change of cabin crew in Austria, and a delay of up to three hours on the ground.

Now that civilian airlines can fly over Pakistan airspace, one-way operation costs for US-bound flights are expected to come down by Rs 20 lakh. Similar costs for Europe-bound flights should drop by Rs 5 lakh. Crew requirements on US-bound flights are also expected to drop - by about 25 per cent.

The 140-day shutdown had cost national carrier Air India a staggering Rs 4 crore a day, according to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, who responded to questions raised in Rajya Sabha on July 3. The total cost to the airline came in at an eye-watering Rs 560 crore; this comes as the carrier is expected to report a record loss of Rs 7,600 crore for FY 18/19.

Private carriers IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir lost Rs 25.1 crore, Rs 30.73 crore and Rs 2.1 crore respectively, bringing the total loss, due to Pakistan closing its airspace, to Indian airlines to more than Rs 620 crore in less than five months.

Hours after the announcement was made by Pakistan, India's Civil Aviation ministry said flights had started using the closed air routes, bringing great relief to airlines and air passengers.

Pakistan had earlier demanded that the Indian Air Force shift its fighter jets from forward air bases along the two countries' border as a main condition for re-opening its airspace.

With inputs from ANi

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