Thursday, 18 July, 2019

Relief for airlines as Pakistan opens its airspace

  • Pakistan has opened its airspace for flights to and from India after a ban of almost four-and-a-half months.

Air Space Closure: When airspace is closed, no aircraft is permitted to operate to or from the airport for a stipulated period of time.

BackgroundPakistan closed its airspace on February 27 after the Indian Air Force’s strike on the Balakot teror camp.

The closure of routes affected hundreds of east-west flights flying over the subcontinent but westbound flights from airports in northern India such as Delhi, Lucknow, Amritsar etc were worst affected.

As many as 400 flights per day were affected due to the closure of Pakistani airspace.

Earlier, Pakistan had said that it would reopen its airspace only after India removed its fighter aircraft from forward bases, which seemed to indicate a prolonged delay.

However, on 16th July, Pakistan airspace was opened for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (air traffic service) routes.

Effects of Pakistan airspace closure on Airlines

  • Increase in flight times from India towards west, as planes had to bypass Pakistani airspace (including a fuelling stop for US flights).
  • Bypassing resulted in increased fuel expenses.
  • An increase in fuel expenses, which constitutes 40% of an airline’s operational costs, resulted in an increase in fares.
  • Huge spike in maintenance costs
  • Higher duty hours for the aircrew.
  • Suspension of various flights

Note: According to government data, Air India was the worst hit 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.

Relief to Airlines following Pakistan’s decision to reopen its airspace:

  • Flights for the west will see travel times drop by up to four hours.
  • Aircraft utilisation will go up
  • Crew requirement will come down by 25 per cent
  • Flight operation costs may come down
  • It may also lead to air fares from Delhi and Mumbai dropping on some international routes.

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