Pakistan-India airspace closure cost billions—but not anymore!
Indian suffered losses worth over Rs 548 crore due to airspace closure, with Air India reporting a daily loss of Rs 6 crore on burning that extra fuel, cabin staff expenses and reduced flights to take costly detours to reach destinations in Europe, the Gulf and the US.
It took nearly five months for Pakistan and India to realise that restricting their airspace to each other’s civilian flights was not a very good idea—that it was self detrimental, to say the least.
It all started 140 days ago, when the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out airstrikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot.
The strike was in response to the JeM-perpetrated terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 14, 2019, when 40 Central Reserve Police force (CRPF) personnel lost their lives.
Flights via Pakistan were cancelled and other flights rerouted after Pakistan shut its airspace on 26th February.
Indian airlines bled.
They suffered losses worth over Rs 548 crore, with Air India reporting a daily loss of Rs 6-crore on burning that extra fuel, cabin staff expenses and reduced flights to take costly detours to reach destinations in Europe, the Gulf and the US.
The national carrier had lost Rs 491 crore till July 2 due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace. Private airlines SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir lost Rs 30.73 crore, Rs 25.1 crore and Rs 2.1 crore, respectively, according to the data presented by Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in the Rajya Sabha.
A week later, he told the Lok Sabha that airspace restriction had resulted in additional operating cost of about Rs 13 lakh per day while for its affiliate Air India Express, the daily loss is pegged at Rs 22 lakh due to re-routing of flights.
Indian airlines weren’t the only one to suffer.
The closure of the airspace affected nearly 400 flights a day and resulted in nearly a loss of $100 million (Rs 688 crore) for Islamabad, an extensive study of operations by Pakistani and foreign carriers between February and late June showed.
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. @AAI_Official @airindiain @HardeepSPuri— Ministry of Civil Aviation (@MoCA_GoI) July 16, 2019
The sudden change of heart, therefore, has more to do with the harsh economic realities than a ‘goodwill-gesture’ by the Imran Khan government.
International pressure might also have something to do with it. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the US had advised aircrafts to stay away from Tehran’s operating airspace following the rising tension between the US and Iran.
Flights from India were using that route for destinations in Central Asia and Europe after closure of Pakistani airspace.
In March, Pakistan partially opened its airspace but did not allow Indian flight to fly over its airspace. It opened one of its 11 air routes for west-bound flights from India mid-April, and airlines like Air India and Turkish Airlines have started using it since.
But now normal air traffic has been resumed over South Asia.