Banning Pakistan airlines from Indian airspace may hurt domestic carriers too

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on January 16, 2018

Longer flight time may increase operational costs

As tensions between India and Pakistan rise the prospect of the closure of each other’s airspace for airlines cannot be ruled out. The apprehensions this time are real as the airspace between the two countries have been closed in the past.

Direct air links between India and Pakistan were snapped on January 1, 2002 when both closed their air space to aircraft registered in the other country. The ban remained in force till January 1, 2004.

If Pakistan retaliates and shuts its airspace for Indian aircraft, there will be implications for those flying from and to India as the cost of operations will increase from India to the Gulf, Europe, the US and Canada.

At the moment it is not clear whether the ban, if and when it comes, will apply only to airlines from India and Pakistan or also for international airlines flying from India or Pakistan to other international destinations.

The hourly cost of operating a narrow body is about $5,000 or ₹3,30,000 while that of a wide-body aircraft like a Boeing 777 or an Airbus A-330 varies from $8,000 to $12,000 (₹5,28,000-₹7,92,000).

Further, the flying time will increase by at least an hour. A changed routing will mean that an Indian airline flying from North India will have to travel down towards Gujarat and then enter the Gulf before proceeding onwards to Europe.

The normal route is to fly over Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Gulf and into Europe for Europe bound flights, while the US and Canada bound flights turn down from Scandinavia which is the shortest route to that region.

An airline taking off from North India could add as much as one hour to the flying time, while the return journey could take 30 minutes longer.

Commenting on the normal wind patterns in the area, a senior airline official said, “the flights out from north India will be one hour longer as the aircraft will encounter headwinds. In the return direction the aircraft will encounter tail winds which will help it reach its destination,” a senior airline official said.

The additional flying time from and to India could also have an impact on the domestic schedules of Indian airlines as many airlines turn their aircraft around in a short time as it is economically beneficial. This quick turnaround of the aircraft could get affected by the closure of Pakistan airspace and the resultant longer flights.

Published on September 29, 2016

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