New Delhi [India], Jul 16 (ANI): Air India on Tuesday said that its flight operations over the Pakistani air space may resume tonight as per original schedule after the neighbour opened its sky for all civilian air traffic.
"Ever since Pakistani airspace was closed, we had to re-route our flights south of Pakistan. Flying time for long-haul flights towards the US increased by 90 minutes,due to which fuel usage went up," the airlines' spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar said in a statement.
He said that with the opening of the Pakistani airspace, aircraft utilisation will go up while crew requirement will come down by 25 per cent. US-bound flights had to be stopped in Vienna where there was a change of crew, which also took three hours.
He said the cost of operations on US-bound flights would come down by Rs. 20 lakh per flight and for Europe-bound flights it will be Rs. five lakh per flight.
"From tonight, flight operation may commence on the original schedule, as earlier," he said.
For the first time since February's Balakot strike, Pakistan fully opened its airspace for civilian traffic, bringing a huge relief for the airlines which had to take long and costly detours to avoid the Pakistani air space.
"With immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civilian traffic on published ATS routes," read a notice to airmen (NOTAM) issued by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority.
In a tweet, the Ministry of Civil Aviation in New Delhi termed the move a "great news" and a "big relief to air passengers".
Pakistan had earlier claimed that it would not open its airspace for commercial flights until India removed its fighter jets from forwarding Indian airbases.
Pakistan had fully shut its airspace on the eastern border with India after the Indian Air Force had carried out airstrikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot on February 26.
The strikes on the terror camp were in response to the JeM-perpetrated terror attack in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14 in which 40 CRPF personnel had lost their lives.
In mid-April, Pakistan opened one of its 11 air routes for west-bound flights from India -- airlines like Air India and Turkish Airlines have started using it.
In March, the neighbouring country partially opened its airspace but did not allow Indian flights to fly over its airspace. (ANI)