Tata Group-owned Air India has suspended its flight from Delhi to Moscow after international insurance underwriters conveyed to the airline that its flights landing in Russia would not be valid for insurance given the threat perception there on account of the war, two people familiar with the development told The Indian Express.
“Air India has reached out to the government of India seeking its intervention in the matter so that flights to Moscow could be resumed as soon as possible,” one of them said on Thursday.
In an official statement, an Air India spokesperson said, “Air India has cancelled one return flight on the Delhi-Moscow-Delhi sector of 7th April, 2022”. However, information sourced from the flight tracking portal Flightradar24 showed that the airline, which operates a flight on the Delhi-Moscow route every Sunday and Thursday, had cancelled the April 3 service as well.
Air India renews the insurance for its flights and aircraft every financial year beginning April 1. It typically buys insurance cover from Indian reinsurers such as New India Assurance, National Insurance Company, Oriental Insurance Company and the United India Insurance Company, and the covers are underwritten by international companies, including some UK-based firms.
Airlines buy insurance covers to protect themselves against windfall losses in case of an untoward incident or accident involving their aircraft. Every insurance cover is tailor-made for a particular airline and is generally provided by a consortium of reinsurers and underwriters.
Given that Russian airline Aeroflot has cancelled all its international flights except to Belarus, Air India's Delhi-Moscow service was the only direct air connection between the two countries. That Air India can still overfly Russia for its US flights is a relief for the airline.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the country’s aviation was sanctioned by the West, leading to the suspension of services operated by European and American carriers. Russia’s airlines were also barred from using foreign airspace. After these sanctions, Air India was among the only few airlines, in addition to some Chinese carriers, that were still flying to Russia.
Additionally, while airlines from the US and Canada stopped using Russian airspace, Air India continued to overfly Russia for its flights between India and the US taking the shorter North Pole route.
“The insurance companies have only flagged a concern over aircraft landing in Russia, not with the overflight through the Russian airspace. So Air India’s other flights to the US which fly over Russia continue to operate normally,” a source said.