Several major airlines said on Wednesday that they are re-routing flights to avoid Iraq and Iran airspace after Tehran fired missiles at a United States’ airbase and a Ukrainian passenger jet crashed just outside the Iranian capital.
Tehran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles from Iranian territory against at least two Iraqi military bases hosting US-led coalition personnel on Wednesday morning.
Hours later, a Boeing-737 aircraft operated by Ukrainian Airlines went down after taking off from Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran, the Iranian capital, at 06:12 local time, killing all 176 persons on board.
The re-routing of flights by airlines comes after the Federal Aviation Administration, the US aviation authority, banned US carriers from the area after the missile strike.
The FAA said it issued the airspace ban, which also includes the Gulf of Oman and the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia, “due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East, which present an inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations”.
Before the latest guidance, the FAA had already prohibited US carriers from flying below 26,000 feet over Iraq and from flying over an area of Iranian airspace above the Gulf and Gulf of Oman since Iran shot down a high-altitude US drone last June.
“As a precautionary measure and following news of airstrikes underway, Air France has decided to suspend until further notice all flights through Iranian and Iraqi airspace,” an Air France spokesman told AFP.
“Until further notice, KLM has no flights over Iranian or Iraqi airspace. All flights to different Southeast Asian destinations and other destinations in the Middle East will be flown through alternative routes.” a KLM spokesperson said.
The United Arab Emirates carriers, Emirates Airline and FlyDubai, said they had cancelled flights to Baghdad for “operational reasons”.
Ukraine also announced that all flights from and to Tehran have been suspended.
Australia’s Qantas said one of its London-Perth flights would be rerouted, with the other already flying an alternative route.
“We’re adjusting our flight paths over the Middle East to avoid the airspace over Iraq and Iran until further notice,” said a spokesman.
Both Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines said they would divert flights from Iranian airspace.
Vietnam Airlines said it will make “appropriate adjustments” of routes to avoid areas of potential instability although its regular flight paths to Europe do not pass over Iran and Iraq.
Germany’s Lufthansa also announced that it has suspended all flights to Tehran.