Flights either re-routed or cancelled, which is resulting in longer flight hours. As many as 400 flights being affected on a daily basis, says source. Air India flies 66 weekly services to Europe and 33 to the US. Most of these flight majorly fly trough Pakistani airspace.
The cash-strapped airline, surviving on government bailouts, is worst hit by the Pakistan airspace ban. Flights now take an alternate route from the south across Gujarat and then cut across the Arabian sea to reach their destinations in Europe and North America. The flights between India and the US East coast – Washington, New York, Newark and also Chicago, are hit dearly.
These flights can no longer operate non-stop and have had to stop at either Sharjah or Vienna to refuel. The airline is re-position crew and engineers in Vienna, incurring a loss in the meantime.
However, the non-stop service from Delhi to San Francisco has not been affected. It flies east, across the Pacific.
As for passengers, the biggest concern is the time consumed in travelling. Ultra-long-haul flights of Air India now take up to four hours longer per sector. This means that flights to the United States can now last more than 18 hours inclusive of the refuelling halt.
Pakistan announced general closure of its airspace on February 27. The announcement came in after Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out an airstrike targeting a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot.
Other airlines such as SpiceJet and Jet Airways have also been affected as they to cancel their flight between Delhi and Kabul.
On Tuesday, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) dismissed reports saying the Indian aviation regulator had called on all airlines to discuss airfare hike due to the cancellations and Pakistani airspace closure.