Air India Adjusts US Flights Due To Pakistan Airspace Closure

Filed Under: Air India

Update: Pakistan’s airspace has reopened.

It sure seems like a complicated time for global aviation, between the Gulf blockade, Pakistan closing their airspace, the 737 MAX being grounded, etc.

As I posted about a couple of weeks ago, in late February Pakistan’s airspace closed. Historically quite a few airlines use Pakistan’s airspace when flying between regions, so this has led to significant detours for some airlines.

One of the airlines most impacted by this is Air India, given their route network. In particular, their US routes are hugely impacted, so I figured I’d outline what’s happening there.

Air India’s US routes

Air India’s US routes include the following:

  • Delhi to Chicago
  • Delhi to New York JFK
  • Delhi to San Francisco
  • Delhi to Washington Dulles
  • Mumbai to Newark
  • Mumbai to New York JFK

These are already very long flights, and due to airspace closure, they’re having to take even more circuitous routings.

So, how is Air India handling this situation? They’ve put some temporary measures in place through April 30, 2019, though obviously this is subject to change based on if/when Pakistan’s airspace opens back up.

Let’s look at how this is being handled on a route-by-route basis:

Air India’s flights from Delhi to both Chicago and New York JFK

These flights to the US are routing via Vienna, so that the plane can be refueled there. They now also have a crew change in Vienna. Initially these flights routed via Sharjah, but they decided that the Vienna stop made more sense.

The flight back to India operates nonstop due to tailwinds.

Air India’s flights from Delhi to Washington

These flights to the US are routing via Mumbai, so the plane can be refueled there. In some cases there may be further payload restrictions, but the flight operates nonstop from Mumbai to Washington.

The flight back to India operates nonstop due to tailwinds.

Air India’s flights from Delhi to San Francisco

This route is sort of the opposite of Air India’s other US routes. This is Air India’s longest route, and what makes this unique is that the flight from India to the US operates via the Pacific, so it’s not impacted by the Pakistan airspace closure.

However, the return flight from the US to India is potentially impacted. The flight is typically operated by the 777-200LR, which is their longest range plane. Despite the longer flight time, it can typically operate nonstop. In some cases it has been in the air for 18hr5min — now that’s a long flight!

While that’s how the flight is scheduled, sometimes the airline swaps in a 777-300ER last minute, and in that case a fuel stop may be needed in Sharjah (the flight operates via the Atlantic when flying from the US to India).

Air India’s flights from Mumbai to New York JFK

Air India only launched flights between Mumbai and New York JFK in December, but they’re already suspending the route, and instead consolidating it with their Newark flight, in light of current events.

Air India’s flights from Mumbai to Newark

Air India’s flights from Mumbai to Newark can continue to operate nonstop, though with a payload penalty (meaning they can’t take as many passengers or cargo). It’s possible these flights have to stop for refueling, though it’s not scheduled.

The eastbound flights are operating as usual.

Bottom line

Air India is obviously doing everything they have to in order to deal with this situation. The longer flight times and potential fuel stops are obviously inconvenient for passengers but are also inevitable.

Is anyone scheduled to take Air India to/from the US in the coming weeks?

(Tip of the hat to Live from a Lounge)

  1. United Airlines has also had to make some changes due to the closure of Pakistani airspace. Flights from Newark to Delhi and Mumbai operate nonstop due to tailwinds while return flights have to refuel either in Frankfurt or Munich.

  2. This is the Indian government’s fault anyway so if anyone is looking to point a finger, there you go!

  3. @Debit those “uncivilized savages” are way better than you at math or really any subject. Of course, the society has issues but they are smarter than you ignorant idiot.

  4. How can they stop in Sharjah when flying from SFO to Delhi over Pacific? Will they now fly over Atlantic?

  5. @ Rafal — Sorry for not being clear, only the flight from India to the US flies via the Pacific (due to tailwinds), while the flight from the US to India flies via the Atlantic. I’ll update the post to clarify.

  6. I think you should switch out the paragraphs under BOM-EWR and BOM-JFK; the descriptions are mismatched.

  7. Hard for me to understand the mind of one who trolls just to make people mad.
    @Debit, I feel sorry for you.

  8. Air a bankrupt Airline..with $billions in accumulated losses, though its Pilots and flight crews are well experienced and dedicated.

    Being Govt. controlled, there is neglect and inefficiency. It does not matter. FOR SALE with perpetual LOSS making operations. The route has no effect. Most Indians living abroad prefer flying other airlines to fly to INDIA.

  9. So India is really on the other side of the globe from the US? It’s cool how some flight go over the Atlantic and others over the Pacific.

  10. @rukmi – they started the problems with Pakistan by lying about what they did and made themselves look like fools. Need to stop reading the propaganda and wake up!

  11. I am (was now )scheduled to leave on Friday from JFK to Mumbai waiting to see what the change will be..

  12. @JimBob – says another propaganda machine. It’s time Pakistan took ownership for the bloodshed they inflict on the people in the region. The US and its allies should impose strict restrictions and embargoes on Pakistan.

  13. @SamRaman – There are some inherent benefits to a state-owned airline, which may outweigh their economic benefit. AI is one of few, if not the only airline, which has done a lot for Indians in perilous situations over the years. While the airline incurs debt, the value is insignificant on the overall scheme of India’s fiscal budget.

  14. I recently flew from Mumbai to Newark on United. Even though it’s a non stop flt they had to make a refueling stop in Bangor, ME. They also changed the crew as per the laws.

  15. I was one of the first unlucky passengers flying from Delhi with Chicago on Air India. I can tell you it was close to being a nightmare. Had it not been for the Indian people who tend to be very patient it would have been much worse. It went from being a 15 hour flight to about 25 or 26 hours. All but one of the rear four toilets were completely full and the meals were negligable. I have to say though the young crew staff did their best in a very difficult situation.

  16. Flew san francisco to delhi on March 6. The flight landed in sharjah for refueling as well as off loading and on boarding food, supplies etc. We were on the ground for one hour. It was very efficient. We were supposed to land in Delhi on the non stop at 7am. We landed at 10.20. So the reroute created a 3.5 hour delay. The crew did not change. The passengers were patient. The crew worked non stop and were outstanding. They deserve huge kudos. Well done Air India.

  17. India should leave Kashmir and take their 500k troops stationed there with them. The local Kashmiris do not want them there one bit. All their problems with Pakistan would be solved. They could then use the money to build infrastructure and decrease poverty in their country. The last round of fighting was started by their prime minister as election stunt by faking an attack on Pakistan. Pakistan wasn’t faking and the next day shot down 2 Indian fighter planes in a dog fight and captured a pilot. It also showed that the Indian military is in shambles; paper tigers like the Iraqi military. Also, Pakistani airspace has been open, its just closed to Indian planes, check

  18. I’m flying from SFO to DEL on Air India flight 184 on Friday night (1am Saturday morning). I’ve been monitoring this flight on Flight Aware and couldn’t understand why it usually required a stop in Sharjah but recently went direct again as planned (2 hour longer flight time, though). Now I get it–it’s the difference in which aircraft they use. Here’s hoping for a direct flight tomorrow and that their business class isn’t as awful as many have said it is (first time flying Air India–a bit anxious). Thanks, Ben.

  19. @JimBob please stop reading NY times. Anyway the Indian public is fed up with Pakistani sponsored terrorists. And India has the right to defend if terrorists attack it’s terrority. If they attack India again this will definitely happen again. Any anyway Indians don’t care for baised opinions from people like you. So you stand exposed on who is the liar.

  20. @John MacGyver Rambo hahaha…I almost laughed out after reading your comment. Almost entire world believes the India narrative of the incident. Time to stop reading Pakistani news & NY times. Other then that most people don’t care what PAF has to say.

  21. My last United flight from BOM – EWR a couple of weeks ago had a refueling/crew change stop in Bangor ME. Back on that flight next week, let’s see how it goes.

  22. @John MacGyver Rambo

    My dear little simpleton, 99% of media outlets report otherwise. Whatever makes it easier for you to sleep at night.

  23. Royal Brunei has changed its BWN-LHR flight path and schedule recently. Is there any official announcement that the new schedule is due to the closed off Pakistani airspace and that it will resume to the “old” schedule once the Pakistani airspace reopens? I want to take that flight but the connections to and from BWN won’t work with the new schedule.

  24. Seems that only PART of Pakistani airspace is closed, but the bulk is open. Emirates for example is operating full flight schedules to Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad. Only Sialkot is not operable.

    @ Lucky: a couple of the posts above come precariously close to (And may be even cross into) hate speech territory – perhaps some ground rules or moderation might not come amiss?

  25. @Rukminand and @Travis (if those are your real names). The washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and NY Times are reporting that the Indians got their butts handed to them, lost atleast 6 aircraft in 1 week- altleast 1 shot down by Pakistan and pilot captured, 2 Hawk trainers crashed into each other, a Mi 17 helicopter crashed (possibly shot down), a Mirage figther crashed after maintenance work, plus 2 more I can’t remember the details for. Your creeking military is in shambles. Also the same international news outlets reported that satellite pics show clearly that Indian bombs hit nothing. Keep living in fools paradise, what do I care, I’m not Indian or Pakistani.

  26. The thread devolved into India vs Pakistan stuff but I’m a Chicagoan heading back to the US in a couple weeks. The airspace closed the morning we left, so there was confusion as we were initially told we’d need to stop but instead the flight time was extended as we flew over Dubai and under Pakistan.

    The return flight has been going through Vienna now as posted. It sucks, I choose Air India because of the non-stop nature, the price, and the connection to the local Air India flights. But now it seems we will make a stop in Vienna unless Pakistan opens all its airspace. Although obviously in the current climate (political, and technical with the recent airline crash) I am forever grateful if I am able to get home safely.

  27. I am traveling back to India on 03/27/2019 from IAD to Delhi by Air India.I don’t know whether the flight will be direct and the arrival time would be the same or it will use the longer route and will be delayed.Is there anyone who can help as I have a connecting flight to Srinagar.

  28. Narindra clown Modi it’s your fault as you started this whole mess as Indian passenger planes carrying out reconnaissance missions whilst flying over Pakistan.

  29. So the flying time for the Delhi to Chicago flight is OVER 19 hours? That is very long.
    The total time for Delhi to Chicago is posted as 21 hours 40 mins. I’m assuming the Stop over in Vienna would be around 2 hours.

    Is there any possibility of resuming direct flights in April without the diversion? Is there a formal date of the resumption of Delhi to Chicago without Detour.

    I had booked my tickets in March, and at that time wasn’t told there would be a diversion. So the flight time increased from 15 hours to 21:40 minutes. Does Air India provide refunds? I can’t even reach their customer service. No one picks their phone.


  30. Some idiots here are commenting such a way that Porkistan destroying Indian jets every day!! Yes in their dream. When Imran the PM of Pak accepted that who are those motormouth to comment. Jumbo or Rambo are actually Paki commenting in the false Western name.

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