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Flights to get more time as airlines avoid Iran’s airspace

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NEW DELHI: The flight time between India and the west – Europe and the Americas – will increase by up to 40 minutes with several airlines that decided to avoid flying over Iranian airspace to move away from the U.S.-Iran conflict zone in Western Asia. The increase will be about 20 minutes for flights to and from Delhi and almost double to Mumbai.

Airlines have not yet indicated whether the increase in flight time, that means higher operating expenses on fuel burning and other factors such as crew, will lead to a fare increase. “Let’s see how long it goes on. If it stays for a long time, we will have to go over the expense to the passengers,” one airline official said.

Iran launched missile strikes on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq in the early hours of Wednesday (local time Iran). Immediately after that, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned its carriers from flying over the airspace of Iran, Iraq, and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, as there is a “potential for miscalculation or misidentification” that could jeopardize the safety of civilian aircraft. The order was immediately applicable to all U.S. airlines and u.S.-registered aircraft.

A few hours later, DGCA “directed” Indian carriers to “take appropriate precautionary measures, including rerouting their flights [from affected airspaces] in order to ensure the complete safety of passengers.”

As a result, Air India – the only Indian airline currently flying to continental Europe, the United Kingdom, the US and Canada – and AI Express said they will not fly over Iran. Other big airlines like Lufthansa, Switzerland, Air France and KLM said they won’t either.

U.S. carriers United and Delta, which have direct flights between the United States and Delhi and Mumbai, cannot fly over that conflict zone by warning the FAA to airmen (Notam).

“In light of tensions within Iranian airspace, the decision has been made to temporarily redirect AI and AI Express flights over flying Iran,” said AI spokesman Dhananjay Kumar.

The longer route will mean that flights from India to the west will fly to Pakistan, to Afghanistan, and then go further north to move away from Iranian airspace. The saving grace for all airlines is that Pakistan’s airspace is open.

Other countries had to take their own call, although most generally followed notams from the United States.

Flight tracking sites show that a Mumbai-London and Bengaluru-London commercial flight were among those routed after FAA Notam. “Two AI flights were in Iran’s airspace at the time and continued to be safe to their destinations,” one official said.

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