One of the main ways in which airlines can cut down on fuel consumption and the associated CO2 emissions is to fly the most efficient route possible. Ideally, every flight would take the most direct route, producing not only environmental gains, but a reduction in flying time and fuel costs for airlines. This, however, is often not possible, as many areas are reserved specifically for military use, excluding commercial aircraft from entering them.

Efforts to address this issue are being made in a number of parts of the world (see this case study in Aviation Climate Solutions on free-route airspace) and now it looks like India is due to follow suit. Indian airlines have been calling for flexible use of airspace for a while now, so a recent announcement by the Indian government confirming that the Airports Authority of Indian and the Ministry of Defence are collaborating to explore the proposal will be welcome news to these airlines.

At the moment, aircraft flying some routes need to make a detour over Pakistani airspace, adding unnecessary flight time. With roughly 40% of Indian airspace classified as military, the ability to cooperate with the Indian air force in utilising those skies will come as welcome news to airlines operating in the country.  

The Indian air force and navy are currently assessing the security implications of instituting a formal flexible route airspace system, but if all goes well, then the skies above India are set to become a lot more efficient.