Flights from all over the world from different airlines have been either canceled or rerouted with 400 flights being affected daily. Many international airlines earlier canceled their flights, but have now rerouted them to not pass over Pakistan’s airspace.
Pakistan closed its airspace to commercial flights on 27 Feb, so west-bound flights originating in India and South-East Asia have to take a circuitous route.
Last week, Pakistan began opening its airspace partially but is currently allowing only flights bound for its own cities to come into its airspace.
India’s flag-carrier flies 33 weekly services to the US and 66 to Europe, most of which have had to be diverted or canceled since a majority of its routes to Europe and North America overfly Pakistan.
The airline’s spokesperson Praveen Bhatnagar confirmed that “flight timings have been increased by over three hours” due to these reasons.
Thanks to the canceled flights, longer routes, and refueling stops, the already-ailing Air India has been hit by revenue loss.
Spokesperson Bhatnagar confirmed this, saying: “We are definitely undergoing a loss in this situation, but we haven’t calculated how much we have lost financially since 27 February.”
A report in the Business Standard estimated that Air India was losing Rs 3 crore every day, and also hinted that the shift from Sharjah to Vienna for the US-bound flights was to minimise the rising costs. However, Bhatnagar dismissed the report, insisting that the losses had not been calculated yet.
According to Flightradar24.com data, a majority of flights originating in South-East Asia and bound for Europe are now flying over southern India instead of passing over Kolkata. Once they clear Pakistani airspace over the Arabian Sea, they turn northwards and rejoin their usual routes.
Flights to destinations in Iran, Georgia, and Azerbaijan are worst-affected, because of their proximity to Pakistani airspace.
Initially, many airlines, including Saudi Arabian Airlines, Thai Airways, Malaysian Airlines, Emirates and Singapore Airlines, canceled their flights. However, most of them are now back up, forced to take the circuitous route
European airlines like Air France, KLM, British Airways, Lufthansa, Aeroflot, and Finnair, as well as United Airlines of the US and Air Canada have also had to divert their flights.