On the other hand, the requirement for crew has gone up since February 27 when Pakistan closed its airspace for overflying. This necessitated stops on long flights that require more crew. It is now creating major operational issues for AI as it is the only Indian carrier with nonstops to US and maximum flights to the west. Since Delhi is its base, the longer route to and from West has increased crew requirement. In the last two days, AI has clubbed and cancelled some west-bound flights to tide over the crisis.
“We had to cancel or reschedule many flights (Friday) for want of cabin crew causing severe hardship for our passengers and heavy losses for our airline…. this crisis has been precipitated by the closure of our country’s neighbourhood country’s airspace and resultant reroutings and stopovers.. This is a critical juncture for our company. Our chairman Ashwani Lohani has requested all inactive crew to report for duty today itself,” said a letter by AI’s ED (inflight service) Madhu Mathen.
“The management is aware of the extraordinary burden that many of you are already bearing in terms of workload. Steps have been taken on a war footing to augment the cabin crew numbers… and extension on contract and I would like to assure you that there will be a dramatic improvement in the situation in a few weeks, however, today, on behalf of the chairman I would like to earnestly appeal to all cabin crew to immediately rally behind the company and the country in this hour of crisis. All other commitments and compulsions must be set aside and every member of the cabin crew must support the airline by making themselves available for duty subject to mandatory stipulations). Those who are on sanctioned leave must also try to voluntarily report for duty Looking forward to your positive response,” the letter adds.
All flights between the west and south/southeast Asia, including Delhi, are taking the longer route due to which airlines have to take extra crew or need to change crew at the halt necessitated by the closure of Pakistan airspace.
Air India has in last two days done route rationalisation due to this reason. It has clubbed its Mumbai-New York (JFK) with Mumbai-Newark (EWR) nonstop from Saturday (March 16) to May 31, 2019. AI will temporarily suspend its popular Delhi-Madrid-Delhi, Delhi-Birmingham-Delhi and Delhi-Amritsar-Birmingham flights from this Saturday “due to operational reasons till further notice”. The airline has done so due to a mix of reasons like crew shortage caused by west-bound flights taking longer route after Pakistan airspace closure and hence they need to fly with more crew members.
The closure of Pakistan airspace for overflying since February 27 has now cast its shadow on the longest route so far to be operated by an Indian low-cost carrier — IndiGo’s Delhi-Istanbul nonstop that is to start from next Wednesday (March 20). It will be a one-stop flight via Doha as IndiGo’s Airbus A321 NEO will take the longer route to and from the west to avoid Pakistan airspace. Pakistan is constantly postponing reopening of its airspace and its latest notice to airmen says (Notam) says that is to happen on Monday (March 18) at 3.30 pm (Indian time).
“Our Delhi-Istanbul-Delhi flight will be via Doha if the Pakistan airspace does not open by when we start them,” said a senior official. The flight to Delhi-Istanbul and return nonstop was supposed to be about 7 and 6 hours, respectively. The longer route via Doha will increase the flying time by about three hours. While IndiGo starts as a daily from next Wednesday, it will have two flights on this route from March 25.
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