Airlines Reroute Flights as Persian Gulf Tensions Escalate

 - June 24, 2019, 10:31 AM

Heightened political tensions in the Gulf region caused by the stand-off between the U.S. and Iran over the recent sabotage of oil tankers in the region’s waters blamed by the U.S. on Iran, and the subsequent shooting down of a U.S. drone by an Iranian missile on June 19 after Iran claimed it entered its airspace, have led several airlines to reroute flights from the potential zone of conflict around the Strait of Hormuz.

On June 21 Emirates Airline urged its passengers to check its website for the arrival and departure timings of certain flights, after announcing that in light of the situation it had “taken precautionary measures,” including rerouting all flights away from areas of possible conflict. “We are carefully monitoring the ongoing developments and are in close contact with the relevant government authorities with regards to our flight operations, and will make further operational changes if the need arises,” said the airline.  

A day later Etihad said it was taking similar steps. “Following the decision yesterday of the U.S. FAA to restrict U.S. airline operations in Iranian-controlled airspace, Etihad Airways consulted closely with the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority and other UAE airlines to evaluate the U.S. action,” it said. “Etihad Airways has subsequently suspended operations through Iranian airspace over the Straits of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman and will use alternative flight paths on a number of routes to and from Abu Dhabi until further notice. These changes will cause delays on some departures from Abu Dhabi, due to increased congestion in available airspace, and will increase journey times on some routes.”

On June 21, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Notam to U.S. air carriers and commercial operators prohibiting certain flights in the overwater area of the Tehran Flight Information Region (FIR) above the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. The Notam further said the tensions presented “an inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations and potential for miscalculation or misidentification.”

Dubai English-language daily Gulf News said Sunday that ticket prices for flights affected by the ban could go up by $300 as a result of the additional fuel costs involved in skirting the Tehran FIR. A consultant said the changes would adversely affect crew rosters and lead to fatigue in overworked crews. Oil prices, which stood at $64.18 late Monday, could move higher as a result of the increased war footing in the Gulf region.

In addition to Emirates, Etihad, Flydubai, and Air Arabia, international carriers KLM, Lufthansa, British Airways, and Qantas also said they would be avoiding Iranian airspace. The FAA order came hours after United Airlines suspended flights between New Jersey's Newark airport and Mumbai, which fly through Iranian airspace, following a safety review after Iran took down the high-altitude U.S. surveillance drone.