Air India Lost Rs 560 Crore In 140 Days After Pak Closed Airspace

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

New Delhi:

The 140-day shutdown of Pakistani airspace cost national carrier Air India a staggering Rs 4 crore a day, according to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri. 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.

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. The Air Force strike was retaliation for the Pulwama attack twelve days earlier that claimed the lives of 40 soldiers.

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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 the dual penalty of 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, 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.

Hit by the ban, IndiGo, India's largest airline by domestic market share, was unable to start direct flights from Delhi to Istanbul due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace. It had to take the longer route over the Arabian Sea and make a stop at Doha in Qatar for refuelling.

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.

"After cancellation of NOTAMS by Pakistan and India in the early hours today, there are no restrictions on airspaces of both countries, flights have started using the closed air routes, bringing a significant relief for airlines," the Twitter handle of the ministry said.

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.

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