Several airlines have confirmed this week that due to the ongoing issues with Iran they will avoid Iranian airspace. This will also cover a wider middle eastern area where risk is heightened. The announcements came after Iran launched a number of ballistic missiles against two bases in Iraq. More significantly though has been the admission by Iran that flight PS752 was shot down in error.
Airlines boycotting the area
Qantas were one of the first airlines to confirm to the re-routing of flights. Quickly followed by Singapore Airlines, China Airlines, Lufthansa and Malaysian Airlines. Even Middle Eastern based airlines are taking the threat seriously with Emirates airlines and Flydubai having cancelled a number of flights into Baghdad.
US Government had already taken action
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had already taken action in the region. Banning US carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran , The Gulf of Oman and the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia. That is quite a vast area to avoid and requires a large detour around the region for some carriers.
The order from the FAA is not binding for airlines from other countries but carriers typically take the FAA ‘s recommendations into account where safety is concerned.
Qantas has confirmed yesterday that it would be continuing to divert around Iran and Iraq for the foreseeable future. Preferring to utilise Afghanistan on services between Perth and London which frequently flew over Iran and Iraq.
Airlines who alread avoid Iran or Iraq
Some airlines already avoided the all or parts of this airspace. Singapore airlines as an example have not flown through Iraqi airspace since 2012. Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have continued to use Iraq airspace presently with flights tracked on Flightradar 24 showing a routing through Iraq
What effect does the detour have?
Qantas flights between Perth and London need to fly for a further 40-50 minutes due to the route detour to avoid Iran. This requires the airline to reduce weight in order that the Boeing dreamliner 787 can comfortably reach London. As many as 90 seats may need to come off the flight to achieve the weight saving. Another alternative would be to add in a refuelling stop. Likely in Hong Kong or Singapore but our understanding is no decision has yet been made.
What the FAA said
due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East, which present an inadvertent risk to US civil aviation operations due to the potential for miscalculation or mis-identificationThe FAA confirmed the flight ban it issued
PS572 and the SA-15 missile
The Ukranian International jet was flying at around 8000 feet when it was brought down. It was still climbing from take-off to it’s cruising altitude. In 2014 a missile similar to the SA-15 shot down flight MH17 at 33,000 feet above Ukraine. Again a surface to air missile. Qantas typically flies at 40,000 feet over the region so risk is limited but still there. It is good to see the safety of it’s aircraft, passengers and cargo put ahead of financial gain.