Airlines are shifting routes and suspending flights as the U.S. threatens to go to war with Iran. Following the downing of a U.S. drone by the Iranian military in what remain inconclusive circumstances, the U.S. called off plans to strike targets in Iran just minutes before the Pentagon plans for action had been scheduled this morning. The strange tumult is making waves across the globe and shaking up operations in the global airline industry.
In a Tweet last night, the FAA broadcast: “The [Notice to Airmen] warns pilots that flights are not permitted in the overwater area of the Tehran Flight Information Region until further notice, due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions that might place commercial flights at risk.”
Airlines from United to Etihad are scrambling to accommodate this notice today. The skies above the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf teem with commercial aircraft most days flying between Europe, the Middle East and South Asia. The airspace is especially thick with flights heading to Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Among the airlines affected are Emirates, which operates out of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, The airline said in a statement that it had “taken precautionary measures including rerouting all flights away from areas of possible conflict.”
Etihad, which is based in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, noted “contingency plans are in place.” Qantas said it was shifting flight paths in the Middle East to avoid the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman, a move that may affect flights between London and Australia. Germany’s Lufthansa is also re-routing planes to accommodate the FAA caveat. Meanwhile, British Airways, Qantas, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Air-France KLM’s Dutch subsidiary KLM all announced they would avoid parts of Iranian airspace Friday morning, according to wire services and news reports.
United Airlines has suspended flights from New Jersey’s Newark airport to Mumbai due to these events. In a statement to its employees it said:
Given current events in Iran, we have conducted a thorough safety and security review of our India service through Iranian airspace and decided to suspend our service between EWR and BOM (Mumbai) beginning Thursday evening.
•Flight 48 (EWR-BOM) has been canceled.
•Customers flying on board Flight 9239 (BOM-EWR) will be rebooked on alternative flights back to the United States. Customers traveling on these flights will experience extended flight times due to a change in our normal flight path.
We are contacting our customers to provide this update and assist those who may need rebooking options.
We continue to explore all our options and remain in close contact with relevant government authorities in order to provide our customers with the most efficient travel experience under these circumstances.
Notice how open-ended this suspension is. As the only U.S. carrier which currently serves the Indian subcontinent, I have to imagine this decision was not made lightly.