Airlines avoid Middle East airspace after missile attacks and crash

posted on 9th January 2020 by William Hayes
Airlines avoid Middle East airspace after missile attacks and crash

The airspace above Iran and Iraq is being actively avoided by several major airlines, following Iran’s missile strike against Iraqi military bases housing US forces yesterday, and the Ukrainian plane crash that shortly followed it.

Among the airlines to cancel and re-route flights in the region are Air France (AFLYY), Lufthansa (DLAKY), Malaysia Airlines and Taiwan’s EVA Air, who are currently not flying over either Iran or Iraq. Singapore Airlines (SINGF) has said it will avoid Iranian airspace.

The Federal Aviation Agency meanwhile restricted commercial US flights “from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.” Authorities in Russia recommended the country’s airlines avoid the same areas.

Meanwhile, a Boeing 737 flown by Ukraine International Airlines crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran early on Wednesday, according to Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA.

The jet had 176 passengers and crew aboard, according to ISNA. A Boeing (BA) spokesperson said the company is “aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information.” Among those killed were 82 Iranians and 63 Canadians, according to Ukrainian officials.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk told reporters in Kiev that it was “too early” to establish the cause of the crash. Ukraine’s embassy in Iran removed from its website a statement which said that terror or rocket attacks had been ruled out as causes of the plane crash.

Escalating tensions between the United States and Iran are making it tougher for airlines to fly over the Middle East, where huge chunks of airspace are already off limits because of political rivalries or war.

The attacks by Tehran were retaliation for a US airstrike last week that killed a top Iranian general. A US official told CNN that there were no initial reports of any US casualties from the attack.

Some airlines reacted by canceling flights. Lufthansa said it would not fly to Tehran or Erbil, a city in northern Iraq that is home to one of the bases hit in the Iranian missile strike. Emirates canceled flights between Dubai and Baghdad, where the Iranian general was killed.

Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines said they were conducting flights as usual. British Airways (ICAGY) and Virgin Atlantic said they were monitoring the situation, but not yet diverting flights.