Let us skip Pakistani airspace, airlines request Centre

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NEW DELHI: Indian carriers are increasingly seeking the government’s nod to fly to the Gulf from western India (mainly Ahmedabad) over the Arabian Sea to avoid the circuitous route over Pakistan. Security fears due to deteriorating India-Pakistan ties+ as well as economic factors are driving the requests.

Air India, Jet Airways, IndiGo and SpiceJet operate flights to Gulf over Pakistan. “In the past few days, India has asked some non-scheduled aircraft flying from Pakistan to return and Pakistan may also retaliate. This is one fear that is behind the demand and the other is pure and simple cost factors,” said an airline official.

SpiceJet has sought direct access for its flights from Ahmedabad to the Gulf under the ” flexi-use of airspace+ “, which allows commercial aircraft to use the airspace reserved for air force and the navy. TOI has accessed a presentation made by SpiceJet to both defence and civil aviation ministries in this regard.
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“With this not only airlines save fuel and route navigation flight charges (RNFC), our country can generate more RNFC. This will also enable reduction in carbon emissions+ which is part of global environmental saving,” SpiceJet said in the presentation. The budget airline would save rupees one lakh if it is allowed direct oceanic route instead of flying over Pakistan for its Ahmedabad-Dubai flight.

Defence authorities are yet to give clearance to the direct access as it involves flying over some sensitive areas. An aviation ministry source said: “We are getting lot of requests from airlines for direct point-to-point routes and are focusing on flexi use of airspace for that. There has been significant progress on that and a lot is still to be done.”