Published: Sun, June 23, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Amid US-Iran tensions, Indian airlines to avoid Iranian airspace, says DGCA

Amid US-Iran tensions, Indian airlines to avoid Iranian airspace, says DGCA

A vehicle of the airport rescue and firefighting services stands in front as a Boeing 767-400ER aircraft of United Airlines takes off from Zurich airport, April 9, 2019.

"FAA remains concerned about the escalation of tensions and military activity within close proximity to high volume civil air routes and Iran's willingness to use long-range [surface-to-air missiles] in worldwide airspace with little to no warning", it said.

The FAA prohibited flights in the Tehran Flight Information Region in a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) warning of "heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the region which present an inadvertent risk to USA civil aviation operations and potential for miscalculation or misidentification".

The Strait, which links the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and sees much of the world's oil supply pass through it, has been a source of conflict recently, following a series of attacks on oil tankers and escalating tensions over Iran's nuclear program. An Etihad spokesperson said: "Following the decision of US FAA to restrict US airline operations in Iranian-controlled airspace, Etihad Airways consulted closely with the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority and other UAE airlines to evaluate the US action".

This was in response to "heightened military activities and increased political tensions that might place commercial flights at risk", an FAA statement said.

The FAA's notice applies only to US-registered airlines, and United Airlines said it was suspending its Newark-Mumbai service in response.

In addition to this, carriers like KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas and British Airways have also said that their flights would be rerouted to prevent flying over the tensed region. A Lufthansa spokesperson had said: "Due to the existing tensions between Iran and the US, the airlines of the Lufthansa Group have been proactively flying around the Strait of Hormuz since June 20".

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The warning comes a day after Iran said it shot down a US surveillance drone that penetrated its airspace.

Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said it shot down the drone at 4:05 a.m. Thursday when it entered Iranian airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in southern Iran's Hormozgan province.

Australia's Qantas, British Airways, Dutch carrier KLM and Germany's Lufthansa said on Friday they were re-plotting routes to skirt the region.

The attacks come against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the USA and Iran following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from Tehran's nuclear deal a year ago. The airline said flights over the two water bodies were suspended on Thursday based on its own assessment of the situation.

The overall impact of the directive is rather minimal, said Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for the flight-tracking website Flightradar24, because avoiding that small portion of Iranian airspace is fairly simple from a technical perspective.

United said customers already en route to India from Newark will be rebooked on alternative flights home. "We continue to explore all our options and remain in close contact with relevant government authorities", he added. "Avoiding the Strait of Hormuz area is recommended - misidentification of aircraft is possible".

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