Air India plans flight services to Iraq’s Najaf from Lucknow

MUMBAI, Dec 8: Loss-making national carrier Air India is looking to start a flight service to Iraqi city of Najaf from Lucknow in UP via New Delhi, starting early next year.

Najaf is considered sacred by Shia Muslims. Notably, Lucknow has a sizable Shia population.

The airline is discussing modalities of the proposed flight and a final decision is expected to be taken on Monday, an airline source said.

“Air India plans to start services to Najaf from Lucknow, connecting New Delhi. But there are are several issues which need to be sorted out before announcing the new flight. A meeting has been called on Monday to discuss all the issues around the flight. A final decision about the launch will be taken at this meeting,” the source said.

When contacted, an Air India spokesperson also said that “it (launch of Najaf flight) is a work in progress”.

According to the source, the stay arrangements for the flight crew is one of the key issues as it can’t stay in Najaf due to certain reasons.

“Therefore, one proposal is to connect the flight to Medina from Najaf so that the crew can stay in Medina in Saudi Arabia. Also, since the new route is likely to be operated by an Airbus A320 neo, which currently does not have¬† extended diversion time operations (EDTO), which will have to be granted by the aviation regulator DGCA,” the source said.

EDTO allows a multi-engine aircraft to divert to a nearby airport in case of an emergency situation.

“It (Lucknow-Najaf flight) is a work in progress and no final decision has been taken. We have applied to the DGCA for granting us permission to operate on the proposed route, which we are expecting next week,” the spokesperson said.

The proposed air services to Najaf will be operated by an Airbus A320 neo plane, he said, adding the frequency and date for commencement of operations will be finalised once the plan is firmed up.

Air India group, which comprises Air India, Air India Express and Alliance Air, currently operates over 40 flights per day to more than 80 domestic and 44 international destinations with a combined fleet of 161 aircraft. (PTI)