NEW DELHI: Flying time between India and the west – Europe and the Americas – will increase by up to 40 minutes with several airlines deciding to avoid overflying the
to steer clear of the
in West Asia. The increase will be about 20 minutes for flights to and from Delhi and almost double for Mumbai.
Airlines have not yet indicated if the increased flying time, that means higher operational expenses on fuel burn and other factors like crew, will lead to a fare hike. “Let us see how long it continues. If it remains for long, we will have to pass on the expense to passengers,” said an airline official.
Iran launched missile attacks on bases housing American troops in Iraq in the early hours of Wednesday (local time Iran). Immediately after that, the US
(FAA) barred its carriers from overflying the airspace of Iran, Iraq and the waters of
and Gulf of Oman as there is a “potential for miscalculation or mis-identification” that could endanger safety of civilian aircraft. The order was instantly applicable to all American airline and US-registered aircraft.
A few hours later, DGCA “directed” Indian carriers to “to take appropriate precautionary measures including rerouting their flights [from affected airspaces] in order to ensure complete safety of passengers.”
Accordingly, Air India – the only Indian carrier currently flying to mainland Europe, the UK, US and Canada – and AI Express said they will not overfly Iran. Other big airlines like Lufthansa, Swiss, Air France and KLM said they won’t be doing so either.
American carriers United and Delta, which have direct flights between the US and Delhi and Mumbai, are barred from overflying that conflict zone by FAA’s notice to airmen (Notam).
“In light of the tensions within the Iranian airspace a decision to temporarily reroute flights of AI and AI Express overflying Iran has been taken,” AI spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar said.
The longer route will mean flights from India to the west will fly to Pakistan, towards Afghanistan and then go further up north to steer clear of Iranian airspace. The saving grace for all airlines is that Pakistan airspace is open.
Other countries were to take their own call, though most usually follow US Notams.
Flight tracking sites show a Mumbai-London and Bengaluru-London commercial flight were among those en route that had to divert after the FAA Notam. “Two AI flights were in
at that time and they continued safely to their destinations,” said an official.