Today the Hindi newspaper Dainik Bhaskar published an article regarding increased cost the airlines are having to bear due to the continued closure of international airspace over Pakistan. In the headline, the article says that daily 70000 travellers are paying upto 5 times more airfare due to this. Although it is correct that Airlines are having to spend more due to the longer route they are having to take bypassing Pakistan, the numbers mentioned in the report are highly exaggerated and defy logic.
The report by Dainik Bhaskar mentions that daily around 233 flights to and from India are affected due to the closure of Pakistani airspace, which carries around 70 thousand passengers. According to the report, passengers travelling to Europe and the US are paying 4 to 5 times more in ticket price due to this. But this is clearly an exaggeration, as airfare has not gone up by that much. A simple search on online ticketing portals show that the cost of flight tickets to European and American destinations remain the same as usual price, they have not gone up by any significant amount.
Moreover, the flight time has gone up by 1-2 hours for most airlines due to avoiding Pakistani airspace, which would be around 20% increase for a 10-hour flight. So, there is no reason why the ticket price will go up by 5 times for that increase.
The article also mentions that Air India is spending Rs 6 crore extra for its flights to Europe and the US due to the change in route. The flight time has increased, and the non-stop flights to New York are having to halt for refuelling. This has added extra fuel and airport ground handling charges for the already loss-making airlines. But an earlier article in Business Standard has mentioned that Air India was losing Rs 3 crore daily due to this reason. So, this means the amount has doubled to Rs 6 crore in the Dainik Bhaskar report.
The report also used this Air India’s increased amount to calculate the total additional cost of all 233 flights. But that is incorrect as not all flights are having to stop for refuelling due to the route change. Only the non-stop flights to the US are having to do that. For flights to Europe, the Middle East and central Asia, only flight time has increased by around 1-2 hours. Hence the amount of additional cost will be less for such flights as planes burn less fuel while cruising at 30,000 feet, compared to fuel used for extra landing and taking off for refuelling, and there are no extra ground handling charges for such flights.
Moreover, flights connecting Delhi are most impacted by the changed route. Flights connecting Mumbai and other airports in Southern India anyway fly over the Arabian sea for travelling to Europe and the US, therefore the impact of the closure of Pakistani airspace is limited to only a few fights. Therefore, it is wrong to claim that the entire daily 70 thousand passengers are paying 5 times extra due to the closure of airspace over Pakistan, as claimed by the article.
Pakistan had completely closed its airspace and grounded its airlines after the airstrike on a terror camp in Balakot by Indian Air Force in February this year. Later the airspace was opened up for domestic airlines and international flights connecting Pakistan. But flying over the country by international flights remains banned by the country. This has forced all planes that earlier flew over Pakistan to now go southward and fly over Arabian Sea. Recently it was reported that Pakistan will re-open the airspace only if India promises to not conduct Balakot like strikes in future.