While the Indian Air Force announced Friday that all temporary restrictions imposed on Indian airspace after the Balakot air strikes have been removed, it is unlikely to benefit any commercial airlines unless Pakistan reciprocates and opens its airspace too.
Among Indian airlines, the international operations of Air India and IndiGo have been affected by the closure of Pakistan airspace since February 27.
IndiGo, India’s largest airline by share in domestic passenger market, has been unable to start direct flights from Delhi to Istanbul.
While the low-cost carrier started the Delhi-Istanbul flight in March this year, the flight has to take the longer route every time through Arabian Sea and take a stop at either Doha in Qatar or Ahmedabad in Gujarat for refuelling.
Similarly, full-service carrier Air India is unable to fly non-stop flights from Delhi to the US since the closure of Pakistani airspace.
The Delhi-US flights of the national carrier have to stop at Sharjah for refuelling and have to operate with two sets of pilots so as to not violate the time restriction rules of Indian aviation regulator DGCA.
As a result of the ban, foreign carriers using Indian airspace have also been forced to take costly detours because they cannot fly over Pakistan.
The closure mainly affects flights from Europe to Southeast Asia. The flights from Europe and the US flying in and out of New Delhi have been the worst hit.
Since Pakistan’s airspace closure, the airfare on many routes have gone up significantly, including Delhi-Kabul, Delhi-Moscow, Delhi-Tehran and Delhi-Astana.