Since the Balakot Airstrikes on 26 February 2019, a Pakistan airspace ban has been imposed, resulting into revenue losses on both sides.
Pakistan and India share a land border of 2,900 km. Similarly, just like the land border, the airspace above the Pakistan territorial waters in the south of the country is also a controlled air space.
Pakistan’s airspace is divided into two FIRs (Flight Information Regions) – Karachi and Lahore – with their ACC (Area Control Centers) in Karachi and Lahore respectively.
Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) provides navigational facilities to International flights that are either to or from Pakistan or are just flying over its airspace. The flights that do not stop over the country and use its airspace to reach their destinations are called en-route flights. En-route flights are a decent source of income for the PCAA.
Impact of Pakistani airspace ban
Pakistani airspace ban has faced complete and partial closure since February 26th, 2019 – after the air force skirmishes between India and Pakistan. The airspace was closed by the Pakistani authorities and was later notamized (NOTAM: Notice to Air Men) that the Indian side is reluctant to allow passage to any flights from its airspace to Pakistani airspace. The following NOTAM was issued by the PCAA:
Not only are the civil aviation authorities of both countries incurring heavy losses, but the airlines are also suffering the most from this airspace closure.
Pakistan, due to its geographical position, provides a favorable, short and cheap route for flights originating from the Far East and India and heading to Europe, central Asia, and Russia. Similarly leading GCC carriers (Emirates, Qatar, Etihad) use Pakistani air space to route their flights towards Thailand, Singapore, India, and Malaysia.
The airlines and civil aviation authorities of both the countries are enduring massive losses. The flights between Europe to Far-East are not only facing massive financial losses, but the flight duration has also increased, while the airlines have also increased their ticket prices. Among the airlines, Thai Air, PIA, Air India, and IndiGo have suffered the most.
After the closure of airspace, PCAA’s financial loss is estimated to reach Rs. 2.55 Billion (PKR 255 crores is equivalent to INR 125 crore).
Pakistan and India have closed their airspace for each other for the last two weeks after rise in tension between the two countries due to which the national institutions of Pakistan have suffered losses of Rs2.55 billion.
The schedule of the airlines flying on these routes has also been affected. The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has suffered loss of Rs 1.05 billion due to closure of certain routes for the airline, while the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan has incurred a loss of around Rs1.5 billion so far due to prevailing tension.
PIA has suffered a loss of approximately 1 billion rupees – roughly 70 million Rupees every single day in the head of fuel charges since the airspace closure.
As reported by The News
It has also been reported that ATC controllers in Mumbai FIR are working extra shifts to cope with heavy air traffic avoiding Pak airspace.
Air India uses its Boeing 777 fleet to provide nonstop flights to New York, Chicago and San Francisco while its 787 fleet provides nonstop flights to Europe using Pakistani airspace. The flight duration for these flights has increased by 2 to 3 hours. Moreover, they are forced to stop and refuel in Oman and Sharjah.
Thai Air has closed a number of its routes as it simply can’t afford a detour over the Indian Ocean from Bombay FIR. IndiGo’s Delhi-Istanbul direct flight has now become a one-stop flight via Doha for refueling of aircraft.
Air India flights travelling west can no longer fly through Pakistani airspace and need to swing south across Gujarat and then cut across the Arabian sea to reach their destinations in Europe and North America. The most problematic flights for Air India are flights between India and the US East coast – Washington, New York, Newark and also Chicago.
These flights can no longer operate non-stop and have had to stop at either Sharjah or Vienna to refuel. Each refuelling halt, mandatory on both the outbound and return legs, costs the airline Rs. 50 lakh on an average. With the airline having to position crew and engineers in Vienna, Air India has lost approximately Rs. 60 crore till March 16 at an average of Rs 3 crore per day.
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