Thousands face flight cancellations, delays for second day amid India-Pakistan tensions; Scoot mounts relief flight to Amritsar

Travellers and visitors at the departure hall of Changi Airport Terminal 2, on Feb 15, 2019.
Travellers and visitors at the departure hall of Changi Airport Terminal 2, on Feb 15, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Thousands of air travellers in Singapore and across the globe continue to face flight cancellations and delays for the second straight day on Thursday (Feb 28), as airlines avoid flying over Pakistan and parts of India amid tensions between the two countries.

Budget carrier Scoot which cancelled its Singapore-Amritsar return service on Wednesday, following the closure of the airport in north India, which has since resumed operations, mounted a relief flight that left Changi Airport at 5pm on Thursday.

Cancelled flights are leaving passengers scrambling for alternatives, while those re-routed are adding anything from 10 to 15 minutes to a few extra hours to the total flight time.

To operate the longer flights, carriers including Singapore Airlines (SIA) are uplifting more fuel and, on some routes, deploying more pilots to ensure that they do not breach maximum flying hours, The Straits Times has learnt.

Industry watchers noted that the airspace over the affected areas is the usual corridor for flights between South-east Asia and Europe.

The closure has affected all SIA flights to and from Singapore, and a total of about 220 flights a day that operate between South-east Asia and Europe.

Among the most affected in this region are travellers flying from airports across Thailand.

 
 
 

Thai Airways announced on Wednesday that all its European routes departing near midnight on Wednesday through early Thursday were cancelled due to the "sudden closure of Pakistani airspace".

The cancellation affected flights between Bangkok and London, Munich, Paris, Brussels, Milan, Vienna, Stockholm, Zurich, Copenhagen and Oslo, the airline said in a statement.

Thai Airways said it is waiting for airspace authorisation to operate flights on an alternative route that does not pass Pakistan.

Flights resumed on Thursday afternoon after the airline received permission from the authorities to operate its flights through Chinese airspace.

Several airlines that fly to Pakistan as well as parts of north India have also cancelled their services.

These include Air Canada, Emirates and Qatar Airways.