Iran airspace restrictions set to impact major cargo carriers

Emirates SkyCargo loading an Envirotainer of pharma product into a 777 freighter.

The current Iran-U.S. military confrontation, which today led the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) prohibiting U.S.-registered aircraft from operating over the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, is set to have major cargo implications for European and Asian carriers.

Following the FAA notification, the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) contacted European civil aviation authorities to note that “some European Aircraft operators are also considering to avoid the area,” according to an email provided to Air Cargo World.

Cargo Facts Consulting Managing Director Frederic Horst estimated that about 220 eastbound and 160 westbound freighter flights, operated by carriers including Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Emirates SkyCargo, Lufthansa Cargo, Singapore Airlines, Turkish Cargo, Cargolux and Cathay Pacific Cargo, stand to be affected by the airspace restrictions.

In a worst-case scenario analysis, the Eurocontrol email estimates that up to 1,000 passenger and cargo flights could be impacted, with routes shifting from Iraq, Iran and Turkey to airports in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and “consequent complete saturation of the Greek and Cypriot airspace.” Such a scenario would lead to “extremely high delays likely leading to an important number of cancellations.”

See also: Are challenges at New Istanbul Airport threatening carriers’ cargo operations?

Carriers would also see operating costs rise substantially under this scenario, as Eurocontrol estimates average route extension per flight between 350 and 400 NM. Horst expects the extended routes would lead to additional fuel costs of around US$1.2 million per week, while flights departing Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam destined for the region “would probably have to take a payload hit.”

Following subsequent reports that planned U.S. military strikes on Iran have been called off, it is not clear how long the NOTAM will remain in effect.

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