June 28, 2008
International Flights May Take Detour for Tanking Up
By Saurabh Sinha
NEW DELHI: The skyrocketing price of jet fuel that have put airlines under severe financial strain now threaten to prolong flying time of your international flights. At a recent meeting that airlines had with the aviation ministry to brainstorm how to survive the oil shock, an idea as desperate as the current times emerged.
Since Indian aviation turbine fuel prices are among the highest in the world, airlines were asked to consider flying to some nearby countries by taking some expensive fuel from here and then tank up in those economic countries.
The places where airlines could consider taking a technical fuelling halt include the Gulf states, former CIS republics and Iran. Although foreign flights get aviation turbine fuel (ATF) much cheaper than domestic ones in India, the base price of ATF is also very high here because of which airlines are considering this option. But they are wary of how passengers used to direct flights to Europe and increasingly to US may react to these technical halts that may add up to two hours of flying time.
A leading airline official said a nonstop India-US flights with a flying time of 16 to 18 hours requires nearly 150 tonnes of fuel which in India costs over Rs 60 lakhs. If the same plane goes via Dubai, it can do with nearly 16 tonnes of fuel from India at a cost of about Rs 8 lakhs. For the remaining 16-hour journey to US, the required 130-odd tonnes can be filled up in a place like Dubai for Rs 36 lakh. So the overall fuel cost is less by nearly Rs 16 lakh on each India-US flight. Multiplying this by two to three daily nonstop flights that airlines are already having or planning, the savings are enormous though the flight does not remain nonstop because of the technical halt," said a senior official of a leading airline.
According to sources, India has fifth freedom agreements with most countries that airlines can consider for these fuelling halts that allow them to pick up passengers from there too. Apart from high taxes, even base price of ATF is very high in India. Each time crude oil prices rise, the increase in ATF costs is disproportionate to the overall increase as charging more for diesel, petrol, kerosene or LPG is a political landmine.
On an average, airlines pay about Rs 53,000 per kilolitre ATF for an international flight in India. In Bangkok, Singapore and Frankfurt, the same fuel is available for Rs 32,630, Rs 32,367
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