Its Delhi-San Francisco flight, which usually overflies the Atlantic or the Pacific ocean, cut across latitudes instead on Thursday to fly over zero degree north in a feat that would probably be Air India’s last hurrah before it is thrown into the throes of privatisation.
Given the ongoing tension with the neighbour, the run-up to the polar route debut had Air India’s operations department chalk up two flight plans. “We were asked to be prepared for a Pakistan airspace closure on August 15. Had they shut down their airspace to Indian flights, we still would have flown the polar route, though with a different routing that took the aircraft over Strait of Hormuz and then northbound for the pole,” said an Air India source.
Delhi-San Francisco flight AI-173 lifted off at 4am, with about 243 passengers on board, overflew Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Russia and overflew the North Pole by 12.27pm to cross over to the other side of planet Earth.