Air India saves time, fuel as Pakistan opens some airspace

New Delhi: With Pakistan opening its airspace partially from Thursday, national passenger carrier Air India has started saving on time and fuel for its US and Europe-bound flights, said an airline official on Saturday.

The national carrier re-routed some of its flights which had to take a longer flight path over Mumbai to reach the US and Europe.

“We are saving 15 minutes on our US and Europe-bound flights since Pakistan opened some of its airspace from last Thursday,” a senior Air India official told IANS.

Pakistan had closed its airspace since the Indian Air Force (IAF) strikes in Balakot on February 26. The move has adversely affected international flights to and from India, with Air India being a major victim.

Flights from across the world have either been cancelled or re-routed since the closure was announced on February 27. Pakistan partially opened its airspace, only for the flights bound for the country.

Air India, which operates 33 weekly services to the US and 66 to Europe, has curtailed operations due to the airspace closure. It has clubbed together several US and Europe-bound flights.

Flights to the US and Europe are now diverted over Mumbai and then northwards over the Arabian Sea through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) airspace. The new technical stops on the route are Sharjah in the UAE and Vienna in Austria. The Delhi-Washington flight has a stopover at Mumbai.

The flights from the US have been taking a longer route, which has extended their duration on the already long-haul journeys.

The AI Mumbai-New York-Mumbai flight, launched in December 2018, has been combined with the Mumbai-Newark-Mumbai flight for March 16-31 duration, the airline tweeted on March 14.

Another newly-launched flight, between Delhi and Najaf in southern Iraq, has been cancelled, as are the Delhi-Madrid-Delhi, Delhi-Birmingham-Delhi and Delhi-Amritsar-Birmingham and Birmingham-Amritsar-Delhi flights.