Relief for airlines as Pakistan opens its airspace after 6 months

AI flight from U.S. arrives in Delhi 90 minutes early
In a massive relief for air travellers and airlines, Pakistan reopened its airspace for all flights early on Tuesday after a gap of six months since the IAF launched strikes in Balakot. Hours after the announcement, an Air India flight from San Francisco to Delhi became the first Indian aircraft to fly over the neighbouring country and reach the destination 90 minutes early.
Increase in fares
The curb meant airlines had to take a longer route to their destinations and burn more fuel, stop midway for refuelling and roster more pilots and cabin crew as their duty hours are regulated. An increase in fuel expenses, which constitute 40% of an airline’s operational costs, resulted in an increase in fares and, in some cases, cancellation of flights. “Pakistan has cancelled the NOTAM [notice to airmen] for its airspace with effect from 0038 IST, the consequential NOTAMS by India also cancelled. Airlines likely to resume normal routes through Pakistan airspace,” an official of the Ministry of Civil Aviation said. The move will benefit Indian carriers as well as the airlines that enter or exit Pakistan from its eastern border with India, such as South East Asian airlines, as Pakistan had lifted its curbs for most other airlines. SpiceJet’s Jaipur-Dubai flight, too, flew over Pakistan, and is yet to announce the resumption of its flights to Kabul. IndiGo, whose flight to Istanbul had to take a long detour via Qatar and stop there for refuelling, doubling its flight duration, says it is awaiting clearances to start operations on the reopened route. Afghanistan’s Ariana Afghan is expected to resume operations between Kabul and Delhi next week and Kazakhstan’s Air Astana, which resumed four flights from Almaty to Delhi says it will return to its 11 flights a week mid-August after demand picks up. According to government data, Air India was the worst affected among all Indian carriers. It lost Rs. 490 crore until July 2 due to the sheer number of flights it operates to the U.S. and Europe. According to IATA, before the ban at least 220 flights used the Pakistan airspace every night between Asia and Europe.

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