Due to the closure of airspace by Pakistan, national carrier Air India lost Rs 491 crore till July 2, according to data presented by Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Private airlines SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir lost Rs 30.73 crore, Rs 25.1 crore, and Rs 2.1 crore, respectively, the data stated. Pakistan had fully shut its airspace on the eastern border with India after an Indian Air Force carried out aerial airstrikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot on February 26. The strikes were in response to the terror attack in Pulwama, in which about 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives on February 14. In March, the country partially opened its airspace for all flights but not for Indian flights. In mid-April, Pakistan also opened one of its airspace for all flights but not for Indian flights. Since then, it has only opened two of 11 air routes and both of them pass through southern Pakistan.
On its part, the Indian Air Force (IAF) announced on May 31 that all temporary restrictions imposed on Indian airspace post the Balakot strike have been removed. However, it is unlikely to benefit any commercial airliners unless Pakistan reciprocates and opens its complete airspace.
In a written response, Puri said," The airspace closure by Pakistan is a unilateral measure that followed the non-military counter-terrorism airstrike by the Indian Air Force against terror camp in Balakot in Pakistan in February 2019. It is for Pakistan to decide."
Post the airstrike, Air India had to re-route, merge or suspend many of its international flights that connect India with European and US cities.IndiGo, India's largest airline by a share in the domestic passenger market, has been unable to start direct flights from Delhi to Istanbul due to the closure of Pakistani airspace.
The low-cost carrier started the Delhi-Istanbul flight in March. This flight has to take the longer route over the Arabian Sea and make a stop at Doha in Qatar for refueling.