Flight time from UAE to India reduces as Pakistan reopens air space

khaleejtimes, 16-07-2019 22:13:39

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Flight time from UAE to India reduces as Pakistan reopens air space

Even as airfares remain high, Indian expats were happy at the positive move from Pakistan.

In a relief for Indian travellers and airlines, Pakistan on Tuesday reopened its airspace for civilian flights after five months of stalemate with India. The move was largely welcomed by expatriates, airline officials and travel agents even though flight delays are set to continue for a few more days.

Pakistan had shut its airspace in February after India carried out air strikes in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. "With immediate effect Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (Air Traffic Service) routes," said a Notice to Airmen (NOTAMS) published on the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority’s website.

Indian Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said last week that air space restriction had resulted in additional operating cost of about Rs1.3 million per day for Air India. On Tuesday, the ministry said in a tweet: "After cancellation of NOTAMS by Pakistan and India in the early hours of Tuesday, there are no restrictions on airspaces of both countries. Flights have started using the closed air routes, bringing a significant relief for airlines."

An Air India spokesperson told Khaleej Times that operational losses and delays will continue for a few more days until rerouting is approved by the Indian regulatory body, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

"The DGCA has to give the changed route path. It also depends on availability of slots at destination stations. We have already routed our flights as per existing situation. The existing route may continue for a few more days," Praveen Bhatnagar, corporate communications at Air India, said over phone from New Delhi.

He noted flights from the UAE had faced the least delay when compared to those operating to the US and Europe. "For the US, we are taking three extra hours. Dubai-New Delhi route will hardly have any delay if or not we fly over Pakistan. Normally, we take route through Kutch in Gujarat. People need to wait for a few days and we will reroute as per the DGCA’s plans."

An Air India official in Abu Dhabi said technical aspects of rerouting will be known in next few days after taking into account the geopolitical situations and directions from various regulatory bodies. The officials noted that it was unlikely there will be drop in airfares.

Tour and travel firms said the reopening of the airspace has brought relief to Indian airlines.

"During the closure of five months, flights such as Spice Jet from Dubai to Amritsar and New Delhi-Calicut had shared Oman airspace. It caused an increase in fuel expenses, which constitutes 40-50 per cent of an airline’s operational costs resulting in an increase in airfares. Also cancellations of flights left passengers with fewer options. This does not indicate reductions in the fare for the summer holidays. Indian flights such as Air India were the worst-hit," Lakshmi Anand, operations manager, International Travel Services, said.

Even as airfares remain high, Indian expats were happy at the positive move from Pakistan.

Jitendra Vaidya, a native of Indore in Madhya Pradesh, was elated with recent developments.

"Now, there is a direct service to Indore from Dubai. And Pakistan has removed its restrictions. I travelled a lot during Indian elections and faced a delay of 15-30 minutes. I will be able to save on this time in future travels," Vaidya said.

Tarun Kumar Mohnot, who hails from Rajasthan and a frequent flyer, said airlines to India managed time delay in an efficient way. "Last month I went to Shanghai from Dubai but faced a delay mostly because of Cyclone Vayu. The flight had to take a deviation and instead of Pakistan airspace, it flew through Mumbai. I also travelled to Los Angeles. I reached almost on time. My family too flew to Mumbai from Abu Dhabi and reached on time. All airlines have a buffer time to arrive at their destination," Mohnot said.

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