Thursday, March 03, 2022

Invasion in Ukraine: Flights from India hit, curbs over Russia

New Delhi: Russia’s military action in Ukraine has led to restrictions on use of airspace by the West on Russia and vice-versa, and this is expected to impact travellers from India to the US. American carrier United Airlines, which was using Russian airspace to fly to India and back, has temporarily suspended some of its flights on the India-US route.

Air India continues to overfly Russia for its flights between the US and India. The consequence of this is a difference of 1-2 hours between US-India flights operated by American carriers and Air India, with the latter’s flight duration being lesser.

According to information sourced from flight tracking portal Flightradar24, Air India’s flight from Newark to Delhi on March 1 operated with a duration of 13 hours 19 minutes, while United’s flight on the same sector a day earlier on February 28 took 14 hours 20 minutes to reach Delhi. Other sectors such as Chicago-Delhi, San-Francisco-Delhi are also taking longer for United.

In response to a query by The Indian Express, a spokesperson for United Airlines said: “United has temporarily suspended flying over Russian airspace to operate our flights to and from Mumbai and Delhi, India”.

A Delhi-based airline executive pointed to the 2019 closure of Pakistan airspace, following the Balakot strikes by India that resulted in longer flight times and subsequently higher air fares.

“The extended flight times will naturally cause higher fuel burn. For as long as it is sustainable, carriers will continue to operate but flights might get suspended once the threshold of cost versus revenue opportunity gets breached,” the executive said.

In addition to US flights, some European sectors have also been affected by blockading of Russian airspace. Finnair, which operates from Helsinki to Delhi, saw its flight times increase by almost three hours compared to what it was prior to the Ukraine crisis.

03/03/22 Pranav Mukul/Indian Express

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