Pakistan opened its airspace for flights to and from India on Tuesday, July 16, after banning it for almost four-and-a-half months following the Balakot strike. The closed airspace had caused extra charges and inconvenience in air travel to India.
The first two airlines to take advantage of the open airspace were Air India and SpiceJet. While Air India operated its San Francisco-Delhi flight, SpiceJet flew its Jaipur-Dubai flight using that airspace.
The announcement came hours after United Airlines Holdings Inc said it was extending the suspension of its flights from US to Delhi and Mumbai in India until October 26, citing continued restrictions of Pakistani airspace. Airlines, both Indian and foreign, had to either suspend or divert their routes for flights operating in and out of India.
An Air India spokesperson commented on how opening up the airspace will help the flight time and fares saying, “As Pakistan airspace is now open, aircraft utilisation will go up while crew requirement will come down by 25 per cent. Flight operation cost for US-bound flights may come down by Rs 20 lakh one-way and for Europe-bound flights by Rs 5 lakh.”
Talking about the earlier issues, the spokesperson said, “The flying time for long-haul flights towards the US had increased by 90 minutes, and additional fuel was needed. US-bound flights had to be stopped in Vienna, where crew was changed and it took three hours.”
Travel portal Yatra COO Sharat Dhall also said that the airfares to Europe and Americas have dropped by 15-20% and to Gulf by up to 30%. He said, “Economy return airfares on Delhi-Abu Dhabi sector have dropped from over Rs 30,000 to Rs 17,000. And for London, they have dropped from Rs 80,000 to Rs 63,000 now.”
On Wednesday, July 17, Lufthansa and United Airlines announced their plans to resume flights between Delhi and destinations in their network. While German carrier Lufthansa said that all its services to Delhi from Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich will resume on the route via Pakistan with effect from July 19, US carrier United Airlines has also decided to advance resumption of its operations from Newark to Delhi and Mumbai from October-end to September 6.