India has adopted a flexible use of airspace (FUA) strategy between civil and military users, promising an array of benefits for airlines.

“More direct routings will save flight time and reduce airline operational costs,” says Amitabh Khosla, IATA’s Country Director for India. “FUA is also a positive step for Indian aviation in terms of sustainability. It will cut airlines’ fuel use and demonstrates the commitment of the industry and India to reduce carbon emissions.”

India’s new Airspace Management Unit became operational at the end of July 2020 and has issued Airspace Use Plans detailing available routes for civil flights passing through reserved military airspace. About 40% of Indian airspace is reserved for military operations but the problem is more severe at such critical hubs as Delhi that are also home to military bases.

The Airports Authority of India’s initiative means airlines are now able to plan and operate flights through the portions of restricted airspaces across India, enabling them to fly more direct routes.

It is estimated that FUA could reduce the Mumbai to Amritsar, Jammu, and Srinagar journeys by 15 minutes. North East and Southern Indian routes are also expected to benefit. Airway L639 helps international flights save 10 minutes per flight, for example. Although the results haven’t yet been fully quantified, Khosla is certain that airlines will see substantial benefits.

“But we still need the Indian government to do more to support aviation in these critical times,” he said. “Aviation promotes jobs and prosperity and ensuring the industry survives would be a major boost to the Indian economy.”

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