New Delhi: The luggage allowance for Air India’s Mumbai-New York economy passengers has been halved to leave room for extra fuel needed to complete the flight, which has been following a longer route since Pakistan shut down its airspace for commercial flights on 27 February.
Economy passengers flying from Mumbai to New York, or vice versa, aboard Air India will now only be able to carry one piece of luggage weighing 23 kg, down from the earlier allowance of two pieces weighing 23 kg each. This rule, which came into effect Monday, is only applicable to the Mumbai-New York route.
“Due to the ongoing closure of Pakistan airspace, the Mumbai-New York path was obstructed and we needed to carry more fuel… It was becoming difficult for the carrier to deal with the existing payload,” Air India spokesperson Praveen Bhatnagar told ThePrint. “Thus, we opted for the one-piece concept.”
Pakistan had closed its airspace to commercial airlines on 27 February, the day an incursion by its air force triggered a dogfight with the Indian Air Force (IAF) over the Line of Control. A day before, the IAF had flown into Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to target terror camps of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which had claimed responsibility for the 14 February Pulwama suicide attack.
The airspace has been partially reopened since, but not to Indian flights.
As reported earlier by ThePrint, among Indian carriers, Air India has borne the brunt of the Pakistan bar as it operates the maximum number of flights to the US and European nations, the routes to most of which pass over Pakistan in the normal course of things.
There are 33 weekly Air India flights to the US and 66 to Europe.
As about 10 flights of Air India have been affected on a daily basis, the carrier continues to undergo revenue losses. The Air India spokesperson, however, said the loss was yet to be calculated.
Jet Airways fleet down to 35
The aviation sector is grappling with the consequences of the airspace closure just as it comes to terms with the reduced capacity of a major player, the debt-ridden Jet Airways.
The airline has reduced its fleet of aircraft to 35, with about 170 flights daily. Earlier, it had a fleet of over 100 airplanes with 600 domestic routes and over 300 international routes.
The National Aviators Guild, a trade body for pilots, had announced earlier that its members won’t fly for the carrier from 1 April unless they were paid their salaries. However, after the pilots received their December pay, the deadline has been extended to 15 April.