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OPINION | Opening up IAF airspace a good move to shorten domestic routes and save fuel

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Opening up IAF airspace a good move to shorten domestic routes and save fuel
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17 Nov 2020

The move to open up air space, which was earlier reserved for the Indian Air Force (IAF), to civilian air traffic has shortened several domestic routes and reduced the fuel cost for carriers. With this, government estimates suggest a saving of more than Rs 1,000 crore in jet fuel expenses for airlines during the current financial year.

Opening up of the airspace available with armed forces was among the post-Covid relief measures announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for the stressed aviation sector awaiting a stimulus package. Aviation turbine fuel accounts for 35-40 per cent of the total operating cost of an Indian airline.

Earlier in May, Announcing the fourth tranche of economic stimulus, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said only 60 per cent of Indian airspace is freely available.

More air space available would reduce travel time and save on fuel, she said.

The finance minister said six more airports will be auctioned for private participation.

Also, an additional investment of Rs 13,000 crore will be made by private players in 12 airports auctioned in first and second rounds.

She also said tax regime for aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) has been rationalised.

Aircraft component repair and airframe maintenance are expected to increase from Rs 800 crore to Rs 2,000 crores in three years, she had added.

In October, Indian Air Force has released 10 percent of military airspace to passenger commercial flights, resulting in reduction of flight time as well as overall operational cost of a flight including savings in fuel. It is being revealed by sources that more than one dozen domestic routes including Lucknow-Jaipur and Mumbai Srinagar will initially benefit from better airspace utilization and air carriers will save as much as Rs 40,000 per flight.

Earlier, PM Narendra Modi held a meeting between officials from Indian aviation industry, the Home Minister, the Finance Minister, and other senior officials of the Government of India for a comprehensive review of the strategies that could help in making India’s Civil Aviation sector more efficient.

It was decided in the meeting that the Indian Air Space should be effectively used in such a manner that the flying time is reduced benefiting the travelers and also helping the airlines to save costs in close co-operation with the Department of Military Affairs.

This essentially means that passenger aircrafts in India can now fly over prohibited zones designated by military due to their sensitive nature to cut short the journey from one city to another. This will save both fuel and time for the flights, making them more cost effective.

This move comes after the Indian aviation industry is struggling from impact of coronavirus. The move to shorten flying time can save considerable amount of money in fuel savings and turnaround time.

For reference, Delhi-Mumbai average flying time is 2 hr. If a more direct route is taken, the flight time can be reduced by at least 15-30 minutes, bringing the flight time to less than 2 hrs. This essentially means a saving of at least 1000 litre of fuel, which is a huge amount for the air carriers. Also the turnaround time is improved, which means more flights in a day, increasing the operational profits for air carriers.

By Shahbaz Syed

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