Key Asia-Europe Air Route Closed on India-Pakistan Tensions

Anurag Kotoky, Kyunghee Park and Mary Schlangenstein
Key Asia-Europe Air Route Closed on India-Pakistan Tensions

(Bloomberg) -- Global airlines were forced to divert or cancel several flights after Pakistan shut down its airspace until Friday morning at least, blocking one of the key air routes between Asia Pacific and Europe following a military clash with India.

Singapore Airlines Ltd.’s Europe-bound flights on Thursday will take off as planned, but will be re-routed to avoid the affected airspace, without any refueling stops, the carrier said in an email. After scrapping all 10 flights from Europe to Bangkok as well as those to Pakistan that were due to depart late Wednesday and early Thursday, Thai Airways International Pcl said it has resumed normal operations by skirting the South Asian country.

The diversions won’t come cheap. Pakistan airspace is the primary route for Southeast Asia and Europe, with about 220 services connecting the regions daily, according to the International Air Transport Association. A flight using an Airbus SE A350 -- such as Singapore Airlines’ service to Amsterdam -- could incur extra fuel costs of about $90,000 for a delay of approximately 20 minutes, said K. Ajith, an analyst at UOB Kay Hian Pte in Singapore.

The two nuclear-armed neighbors are engaged in the most serious military confrontation in decades, after India said Tuesday it killed hundreds of militants in a camp inside Pakistan. Pakistan retaliated by shooting down an Indian MiG-21 aircraft and capturing a pilot, while India said it downed a Pakistani jet. Pakistan closed its airspace, while airports in northern India were shut for hours before restrictions were lifted.

All flights between Beijing and Pakistan have been canceled Wednesday and Thursday, and it’s unclear whether flights scheduled for Friday will also be scrapped, according to China’s aviation regulator.

Qantas Airways Ltd. had to change the flight path for its London-Singapore service, which is scheduled to arrive at the Asian city-state Thursday, adding an extra 20 minutes to the journey. Singapore Airlines’s flight to London Wednesday was diverted to Dubai to refuel before heading to its final destination, and its plane to Frankfurt stopped in Mumbai to pick up fuel while the return service was canceled.

A United Continental Holdings Inc. flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to Delhi was re-routed to London and later canceled, while a Newark-Mumbai flight was diverted to Frankfurt. An Air Canada flight from Toronto to Delhi turned back Tuesday night over Ireland and was scrubbed when it arrived back in Canada. A Vancouver-Delhi flight also was scrapped.

United said it would continue to operate its Newark-Mumbai and Newark-Delhi flights Wednesday night, flying around Pakistani airspace, and warned customers they would experience “extended flight times.” The carrier made the decision “after working with relevant government authorities and conducting a thorough safety and security review,” according to an emailed statement.

Air Canada was operating a Toronto-Mumbai flight later Wednesday using a different route, said Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the carrier. The airline canceled a service to Delhi from Toronto on Wednesday night, and from Vancouver on Thursday.

(Updates with duration of airspace closing in Pakistan in first paragraph.)

--With assistance from Anchalee Worrachate, Susan Warren, Brendan Case and Dong Lyu.

To contact the reporters on this story: Anurag Kotoky in New Delhi at;Kyunghee Park in Singapore at;Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at, Sam Nagarajan, Lena Lee

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