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Pakistan airspace closure affects 400 flights a day, costs Islamabad $100 mn

Pakistan closed its airspace following an aerial engagement along the Line of Control on February 27 in the wake of the suicide attack by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that killed 40 Indian troops.

Updated: Jul 03, 2019 11:22 IST

By Rezaul H Laskar, Hindustan Times New Delhi

An extensive study of operations by Pakistani and foreign carriers between February and late June showed approximately 400 flights a day were hit by the closure of airspace. (AFP)

The closure of Pakistan’s airspace following tensions related to the Pulwama suicide bombing in February has affected nearly 400 flights a day and resulted in losses of almost $100 million for Islamabad, people familiar with developments have said.

Pakistan closed its airspace following an aerial engagement along the Line of Control on February 27 in the wake of the suicide attack by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that killed 40 Indian troops. On June 28, Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced the closure for overflight and transit flights will continue till July 12.

An extensive study of operations by Pakistani and foreign carriers between February and late June showed approximately 400 flights a day were hit by the closure of airspace. It also resulted in enhanced flight times as aircraft have to bypass Pakistani airspace, and this has led to increased fuel expenses, operational costs and maintenance costs and higher duty hours for aircrew, the people cited above said.

One direct impact is the decline in revenues for CAA from route navigation and airport charges levied on aircraft overflying or landing in Pakistan. These charges depend on the category of aircraft and distance traversed within Pakistani airspace. For instance, the charge for a Boeing 737 transiting through Pakistani airspace is about $580, and the charge is more for bigger aircraft.



“Given that some 400 flights a day have been affected and using the charge of $580 as a base, it can be safely assumed that daily losses due to overflight charges alone for the CAA would be about $232,000,” said a person.

“If you add losses from charges for terminal navigation, landing and parking of aircraft, the daily losses are in the region of $300,000,” the person added.

State-run Pakistan International Airlines too is suffering losses of almost $460,000 a day due to suspension of flights to foreign destinations such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Delhi, and increased operational and fuel costs due to longer flying times even for domestic flights, the people said. The combined daily losses of the CAA and PIA – about $760,000 – have resulted in losses of almost $100 million since the airspace restrictions were imposed, they added.

The people pointed out the airspace closure also has several knock-on effects, such as the availability of funds to maintain and service navigation equipment and the loss of passenger share by PIA.

Several foreign airlines have already curtailed or suspended some flights in the region because of the airspace closure and Mark Martin of Dubai-based Martin Consulting said: “The loss is on us because airlines have to take longer routes in order to avoid Pakistan airspace.

“India has to take up the matter at diplomatic level as ultimately passengers are at a loss with airlines passing on the higher operating costs to them,” he added.

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