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Pak airspace opens, first plane to fly is an Air India

TNN|
​Big respite for India
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​Big respite for India

Air India San Francisco-Delhi service AI 184 was winging its way to Delhi when the pilots of this flight — one of the longest nonstops globally — got a surprise message on Tuesday morning: “Pakistan airspace open for overflying.”

AI, which has been losing crores daily due to the airspace closure since February 27 and its flights to and from the west taking long routes, acted swiftly.

BCCL
​First flight to fly after re-opening
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​First flight to fly after re-opening

The flight from the Golden Gate became the first by an Indian carrier to fly over the newly-opened gates of Pakistan airspace on its way to Delhi after 4 am on Tuesday.

“The flight landed here about 1.5 hours before the schedule time that the longer route would have taken," said an official.

Agencies
Airspace closed since Balakot strike
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Airspace closed since Balakot strike

Pakistan had closed its airspace for overflying on February 27, post Indian Air Force’s Balakot strike.

The closure meant flights between south Asia, including north India with Delhi at its heart, had to take much longer routes on these routes leading to increase in flying time by anywhere up to three hours; adding fuelling stops on direct India-US nonstops of Air India; cancelled flights of airlines like United on India-Newark sectors and a sharp hike in operating costs for airlines.

Agencies
​Post re-opening
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​Post re-opening

With Pakistan airspace re-opened, airlines — mainly Air India (which flies to Europe, US, Gulf, Saudi Arabia), IndiGo (Gulf, Istanbul, Saudi) and SpiceJet (Gulf, Saudi) — are now holding meetings so that their flights to and from the west can start taking the direct route at the earliest.

IndiGo’s Delhi-Istanbul flight has been taking a stop both on the way out and in since launch this March due to Pakistan airspace closure and will be direct from Wednesday.

Getty Images
​Loss
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​Loss

AI has suffered the maximum loss due to Pakistan airspace closure.

It has lost Rs 491 crore till July 2 followed by SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir losing Rs 30.7 crore, Rs 25.1 crore and Rs Rs 2.1 crore, respectively.

Getty Images
​Straight route
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​Straight route

A senior AI official said: “We are holding meetings to see if the afternoon Europe departures followed by night US flights can start taking the straight Pakistan route from Tuesday afternoon and early hours of Wednesday itself, respectively. Our Mumbai-London of Tuesday will fly over Pakistan.”

SpiceJet had cancelled its Delhi-Kabul direct since Pakistan airspace closure. However, Pakistan airspace will not witness one Indian carrier over its skies now — Jet airways — which was flying on February 27 and has since shut down.

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