All the major Indian carriers have requested the Narendra Modi government in New Delhi to allow them to avoid the circuitous route over Pakistan while flying to West Asia.

Almost all the airlines operate flights to Gulf from western Indian cities (mainly Ahmedabad) over Pakistan. Now, they want to fly over the Arabian Sea to avoid the Pakistani airspace mainly because of deteriorating relations between the two South Asian countries. The top managements of Air India, Jet Airways, IndiGo and SpiceJet said that they made the request while keeping economic factors in mind.

Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi, an Indian airline official recently said: “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.”

Meanwhile, a SpiceJet official said that they wanted direct access for their flights from Ahmedabad to different Gulf cities under the “flexi-use of airspace”. Under the flexi-use of airspace, the government allows commercial aircraft to use the airspace reserved for Air Force and the Navy. In a press release, SpiceJet also said: “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.”

However, it is still not clear whether the Indian government will accept the request. An Aviation Ministry official said that a clearance from defence authorities is required for enjoying the flexi-use of airspace facility because it involves flying over some sensitive areas. “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,” he told the press.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]