On Wednesday, January 8, several major airlines were reported to have re-routed their flight to avoid airspace over Iraq and Iran following missile attack on US troops in Iran.
Iran reportedly fired more than a dozen missiles from its territory to Iraqi military bases that were hosting the United States troops.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned the US from accessing the area that was hit and issued an airspace ban that extended to the Gulf of Oman and 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 US civil aviation operations,” read part of the ban issued.
According to data from FlightRadar24, some of non-US airlines had their flights in parts of Iran, Iraq at that time hence were not directly affected by the ban.
However, foreign carriers are said to have considered the US advice and the ban hence are very careful when making the decision on where to fly.
Notably, the re-routing of flights increases the travel times as well as consumes more fuel in the process.
Initially, the FAA had advised US carriers against flying below 26,000 feet over Iraq and also from flying over the Iranian airspace or above the Gulf and Gulf of Oman.
This was after Iran shot down a high altitude US drone in June, 2019.
Among airlines that are said to have re-routed include Transport Canada which is said to be in close contact with FAA adding that Air Canada is altering its routes.
Singapore Airlines Limited additionally stated that following the attack, all its flights would be re-directed from the Iranian airspace.
Others included Australia’s Qantas Airline, Dubai-based Emirates Airlines and Korean Airlines Company Limited who indicated that they were avoiding the airspace and would adjust to more operational changes that would need to be followed.
However, Qatar Airways established that its flights were operating normally with India’s Aviation Regulator not issuing formal instructions despite holding meetings with the relevant authorities and advising them to remain vigilant.
In a separate incident in 2014, carriers increased ways to limit their planes from threats after a Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by a missile over Ukraine.
The plane killed all 298 passengers that were on board.
In another directive, the OPSGROUP, body in charge of issuing advisory to airlines on security termed the new US airspace ban as significant.
It added that the ban is even more momentous given that the whole over-water airspace in the region is unavailable.
“Flights headed to/from the main airports in the region such as Dubai will now need to route through Saudi Arabia’s airspace,” read the post from their website.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Tuesday, January 7, stated that a team consisting of International aviation had been formulated to sustain effective coordination and communication between countries and airlines during the tense period.
Airlines together with UN aviation agency have correspondingly initiated a strategic monitor of the Iraq, Iran airspace and potential risks are to be effectively communicated to the civil aviation.
“It is critical that states live up to this obligation as tensions in the Middle East rise,” the group said, days after the killing of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani on Friday plunged the region into a new crisis,” read the statement.
In a statement to Reuters, IATA stated that it was formulated together with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as part of the standard precautionary procedure required by airlines in the event of contingency measures.
The body brings together different airlines, regulators among other relevant people in the aviation to share expeditious alerts on prospective risks.