Economics Prelims cum Mains

Pakistan airspace closure: Indian airlines incur Rs 550 crore loss

In News:

  • Indian airlines have lost over Rs 550 crore due to the airspace closure by Pakistan.
  • The Pakistan airspace was closed following the tensions with India after the Balakot air strikes.

 

Some Basic Terms

Flight Permit

  • Just as countries have rights to their land, they have rights to the air above them. Most countries “rent” that airspace to foreign airlines, allowing them to fly through it.
  • Flight permits are permits or permission required by an aircraft to overfly, land or make a technical stop in any country’s airspace.

Overflight fees

  • Airlines pay a fee to fly over other countries. They’re called overflight fees.
  • There’s no standard fee, countries use different metrics to determine the cost.
  • For example: Canada’s fee takes into account airplane weight and distance traveled, while the United States’ fee only considers the distance.
  • Airlines sometimes take longer flight paths to avoid high fees. But avoiding airspace is harder than it seems, because airspace can sometimes be larger than the country itself.

Air Space Closure

  • When airspace is closed, no aircraft is permitted to operate to or from the airport for a stipulated period of time.

 

Background

  • Following airstrikes by Indian Air Force in Balakot, Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on February 26.
  • While Pakistan later opened up the airspace, restrictions on overflying the country still continue and out of the total 11 air routes in Pakistan’s territory, it has opened up two since March.
  • The closure of routes affected hundreds of east-west flights flying over the subcontinent but westbound flights from airports in northern India such as Delhi, Lucknow, Amritsar etc have been worst affected.
  • As many as 400 flights per day are affected due to the closure of Pakistani airspace.

How airspace closure by Pakistan affecting Indian Airlines?

  • Increase in flight times (by at least 70-80 minutes) as planes had to bypass Pakistani airspace.
  • Bypassing resulted in increased fuel expenses.
  • Increase in operational costs and maintenance costs
  • Higher duty hours for the aircrew
  • Suspension of various flights

Note: Several foreign airlines have also suspended or curtailed flights in the region due to the airspace closure due to longer duration of flights.

 

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