Tuesday, August 17, 2021

'40 mins extra, expensive tickets': Afghan crisis impacts Indian airlines' international flights

The political upheaval in Afghanistan is creating ripples in the Indian aviation sector. After the closure of airspace over Afghanistan, Air India's scheduled commercial flight to Kabul was suspended. Air India is the only carrier that flies to Afghanistan through its Airbus A320 aircraft. Similarly, flights operated by Kam Air, through its Airbus A340-300, to Delhi have also been suspended.

While the current goings-on in Afghanistan is expected to give a hard time to people who want to travel to India, the conflict is likely to increase the cost of flying for all domestic carriers flying on international routes, especially towards West. How? "The last Air India flight came in yesterday evening. Now there's NOTAM (notice to airmen) issued which says that airspace is uncontrolled. It means that flights to and from Delhi will have to fly towards the tip of Pakistan and go via Iran in order to avoid Afghanistan's airspace. That's an easy 40 minutes to an hour of extra flying. This is going to increase the cost of flying which would, in turn, have a direct impact on the air fares," says Vinamra Longani, head of operations at Sarin & Co.

So all US-bound flights from New Delhi might need a fuel stop somewhere in the Middle East; flights to Europe could still make it but they will need to take a detour. ATF (aviation turbine fuel) accounts for roughly 30-40 per cent of an airline's total cost. More fuel burn would result in higher expenditure on one of the biggest cost items.

Though due to Covid pandemic, the international flights in India have been suspended till August 31 (and perhaps beyond); the domestic carriers like Air India and Vistara are still flying to Europe and US destinations through air bubbles and Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) flights.

In a statement today, Vistara has reportedly said that it will not operate its Delhi-to-London flights over Afghanistan airspace. The full-service carrier (FSC) operates four weekly flights on Delhi-London-Delhi route.

16/08/21 Manu Kaushik/BusinessToday.in

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