Airlines divert flights from Iran and Iraq airspace after missile attacks

Flightradar24 imagery of airspace over Iraq and Iran, as of Jan. 8, 2020 at 18:12 UTC.

(Bloomberg)–Airlines around the world diverted flights from the airspace over Iran, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf after Tehran fired more than a dozen missiles at U.S. forces in the region.

In the wake of the attack, carriers ranging from Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Qantas Airways Ltd. to Air France-KLM and Deutsche Lufthansa AG have said they’re avoiding the area, a busy corridor for travel between Europe and Asia.

The airlines were following the lead of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which banned American carriers from flying over the region. International airlines often fall into line with the agency’s recommendations.

The carriers are seeking to avoid a repeat of the 2014 disaster when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by a missile over Ukraine amid the conflict with Russia, killing 298 people on board.

Rerouting aircraft to avoid conflict zones can add to flight times and increase fuel consumption, raising costs and increasing emissions. Qantas said diverting its Perth-London flight will add about 40 to 50 minutes to the journey.

A number of airlines shifted routes last year to avoid Iranian airspace after the country shot down a U.S. drone with a surface-to-air missile.

In the latest attack, Iran fired 15 missiles in retaliation for the killing of general Qassem Soleimani. Ten of them hit the Ayn al-Asad base in western Iraq and another facility in Erbil, according to U.S. officials. Another struck the Taji air base near Baghdad.

737 Crash
Adding to concerns about the regional airspace, a Boeing Co. 737 jet flown by Ukraine International Airlines crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran Wednesday morning, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board. Local officials said initial assessments suggest the incident was caused by a technical issue.

In addition to diverting flights, Lufthansa canceled a scheduled Wednesday trip from Frankfurt to Tehran, a spokesman said. Emirates and Flydubai said they had scratched flights to Baghdad.

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