India’s airlines to skirt Iran

Last Updated 23 June 2019, 02:50 IST

India’s airlines on Saturday decided to skirt Iranian airspace, the theatre of US-Iran tensions after an American drone was shot down, and take a longer route to reach European and onward destinations.

The decision is expected to lead to longer flying hours and higher airfares, though no airline made any mention of it immediately.

India’s civil aviation regulator DGCA announced that all Indian operators have decided to avoid the “affected part of the Iranian airspace to ensure safe travel for passengers”.

“They will re-route flights suitably,” the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said on Twitter. Air India and Indigo — that operate in the region — will have to take detours.

To avoid Iranian airspace, flights will have to be re-routed via Dubai-Saudi Arabia-Jordan-Syria or through Dubai-Saudi Arabia-Iraq. “Indian airlines are facing the brunt of the closure of the Pakistani airspace. The Iranian airspace is a key route for Europe-bound aircraft. Re-routing would add at least an hour to the flying time,” Ashish Nainan, Research Analyst, CARE Ratings, told DH.

The decision came a day after the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) of the US banned American airliners from operating over the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, prompting a number of global operators such as Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa and KLM to avoid the area.

“No substantial effect on Air India flights. Details being worked out for rerouting on incoming flights,” Air India chairman-cum-managing director Ashwani Lohani said.

Etihad Airways said on Saturday that it has “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”.

Tensions soared in the Persian Gulf on Thursday when Iran shot down an American drone claiming that it had violated its airspace. US President Donald Trump ordered airstrikes on Iranian targets as a retaliatory action but pulled back abruptly.

Pakistani airspace has remained closed for Indian airlines since the Balakot air strikes on February 26, forcing Air India to re-route, merge or suspend its flights bound for Europe and the US.

(Published 22 June 2019, 19:39 IST)

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