Wednesday, Dec 03, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
Airlines sources said that while Air India would make a saving of Rs. 40 crores annually, Indian Airlines would also gain Rs. 8 to 10 crores every year. Both the carriers have had to incur extra expenses on flights originating from Delhi and bound for Europe and the Gulf. While Air India flights to the United States and Europe have to put in about 40 minutes of extra flying time to avoid Pakistani airspace, Indian Airlines flights bound for the Gulf also have to take a detour.
Aviation links between the two neighbours were snapped by India in the wake of the December 13, 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament. Pakistan refused to allow overflights when India lifted the ban last year. Since then, the issue of resumption of air links between the two countries have been hanging fire, with Pakistan insisting that India give a sovereign undertaking never to unilaterally suspend overflight rights again.
Over the past nearly two years, in absence of direct flights, Indians and Pakistanis were left with no option but to fly through Dubai, each trip costing more than thrice the normal fare for a round trip through a direct flight. Accumulated losses for both Air India and Indian Airlines over the past two years on account of denial of overflight facilities are estimated to be around Rs. 100 crores, sources said.
However, the Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf, announced on Sunday that his country was ready to allow overflights by India. His offer came a day before civil aviation officials level talks here to work out the modalities for resumption of air links.
With Gen. Musharraf's offer in the backdrop, the two-day talks ended on Monday itself and an agreement was reached to resume air links and overflights from January 1.
Indian Airlines had been operating Delhi-Lahore flights and its sole flight on the Mumbai-Karachi sector was withdrawn in October 2001.
Sources said that IA would seek landing rights for Lahore and Karachi as flights to other Pakistani cities were not viable owing to low traffic and procedural hassles.
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