Air India on Tuesday said one-way operational cost of flights to the United States might come down by Rs 20 lakh after Pakistan reopened its airspace for all civilian traffic after months of ban on Indian aircraft, PTI reported.
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. India had also imposed similar restrictions in its airspace but removed them on May 31, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took oath for the second time.
A spokesperson for Air India said its flights had to be rerouted south of Pakistan since the airspace was closed, ANI reported. “Flying time for long haul flights towards USA increased by 90 minutes, fuel usage also increased,” the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson said US-bound flights made a stop over at Vienna in Austria, where crews were changed. The process took an extra three hours, according to The Times of India. “As Pakistan airspace is now open aircraft utilisation will go up while crew requirement will come down by 25%,” the airline official added.
The spokesperson said flight operation costs for flights to Europe would reduce by Rs 5 lakh. “From tonight, flight operation may commence on the original schedule, as earlier,” the official added.
Earlier this month, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told the Rajya Sabha that Indian airlines had suffered losses worth at least Rs 549 crore due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace. Air India had incurred a loss of Rs 491 crore as of July 2 while private airline SpiceJet lost Rs 30.73 crore till June 20, IndiGo lost Rs 25.1 crore till May 31, and GoAir suffered losses worth Rs 2.1 crore till June 20, according to the data provided by Puri.
On Tuesday, Air India’s San Francisco- New Delhi flight was the first to fly over Pakistan airspace after the ban was removed, The Times of India reported. The Ministry of Civil Aviation said flights had “started using the closed air routes, bringing a significant relief for airlines”.