NEW DELHI: Pakistan has turned down an overflight request by India for Prime Minister Modi’s upcoming US trip. This request, according to officials, is as per protocol, since Air India One is not a commercial flight but a VIP one. The longer route that AI One will now take will increase the flying time for the Delhi-Frankfurt (fuelling halt for onward flight to Houston) leg of AI One by 45-50 minutes.
Earlier this month, Pakistan had turned down a similar request
for President Ram Nath Kovind’s flight
The alternate route from Delhi bypassing Pakistan airspace means flying near Mumbai-Arabian Sea (steering clear Pakistan airspace around Karachi) — Muscat — and then to Europe. The straight route would have entailed flying from Delhi to Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran to Europe.
Pakistan had closed its airspace for overflying on February 27 following Indian Air Force’s Balakot strike and had re-opened the same after 138 days on July 16. During this time all flights between Delhi and the west took the longer route.
In June Prime Minister Modi flew from Delhi to Bishkek. Due to the longer route, AI One covered a distance of 5,475 km with a block time (time from when aircraft door closes for departure to when it opens at destination on landing) of 6 hours and 30 minutes.
The straight route over Pakistan would have meant covering a distance 2,585 km in a block time of 3 hours and 45 minutes. Taking the longer route from Delhi to Gujarat-Arabian Sea-Oman-Iran-Central Asia-Bishkek meant covering 2,890 km extra and increased flying time of two hours and 45 minutes.