American Airlines launched service between New York JFK and Delhi in November 2021. They ran into diplomatic roadblocks getting permission to fly over Russia, leading to more circuitous routings which meant that the flight would occasionally have to divert and crew would time out.
Then, once Russia invaded Ukraine, U.S. airlines weren’t permitted to overfly Russia at all. That’s made service to India tougher for United, too.
American would like to overfly Kabul, Afghanistan instead however there have been limits doing so.
- The FAA wouldn’t allow it below 32,000 feet through the Kabul Flight InformatioN Region for safety reasons. Terrorists might try to shoot down planes overhead.
- American’s Boeing 777-300ER can’t fly over 32,000 feet in the region under certain meteorological conditions.
This made a Kabul routing problematic, lengthening the Delhi trip further. Now American has asked for and received an exemption that allows them to operate below 32,000 feet – instead flying through the area at 30,000 feet. This still isn’t as efficient as flying over the Urals but will shorten the trip for American.
There is theoretical risk, according to the FAA, because:
- “[V]iolent extremists and militants have access to weapons posing risks up to 25,000 feet” and
- “[T]here is high terrain in the vicinity of jet routes P500-G500” which could place those weapons within range.
However this has never happened even when the U.S. was operating inside the country and it hasn’t happened since they left two years ago. On the other hand, American flights 292 and 293 operate on a published schedule and can be tracked.
- The NOTAM for the area (G0306/23) permits overflight at 30,000 feet
- The distance between waypoints FIRUZ and MOTMO where this exemption occurs is just 12 nautical miles and takes just 95 seconds to cross
- So the FAA considers an exemption to the 32,000 foot limit, to fly at 30,000 feet, not to have an adverse effect on safety.
This is all probably fine? But I think I’d still be holding my breath for about 95 seconds?