Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday said that Indian airlines had suffered a loss of at least Rs 549 crore due to Pakistan’s airspace closure since February 27. Puri said that closing the airspace was a “unilateral measure” and that it was up to Islamabad to lift the ban.
The data provided by Puri to the Rajya Sabha showed that private airline SpiceJet had lost Rs 30.73 crore till June 20, IndiGo had lost Rs 25.1 crore till May 31, and GoAir Rs 2.1 crore till June 20, while Air India incurred a loss of Rs 491 crore as of July 2.
Pakistan closed its airspace to Indian aircraft on February 26 after the Indian Air Force’s airstrikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Balakot. The country has opened only two out of 11 routes that go through southern Pakistan.
The closure of routes has affected hundreds of east-to-west flights going over the subcontinent. West-bound aircraft originating from airports from north India have been the worst-affected, The Indian Express reported. The constraints have not only stretched flight time, but also increased fuel costs and introduced operational difficulties for the airlines. While some airlines started refuel stops for their flights from Delhi to North America, a few others have discontinued their flights.
In June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi opted for a route that took him to Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit via Oman and Iran.
On May 31, the Indian Air Force said it had removed the restrictions on all routes in the Indian airspace imposed on February 27, a day after its airstrikes. India’s decision was seen as a gesture for Pakistan to remove their airspace restrictions, too, and shorten flying distances between parts of South Asia and the West.