As a precautionary measure, UAE airlines, including Emirates, Etihad Airways, flydubai and Air Arabia, and a number of international carriers rerouted some of their flights beginning on Friday over the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman, following the emergency order by the US Federal Aviation Administration (USFAA) prohibiting US operators from flying in Iran-controlled airspace.
The downing of an unarmed Global Hawk aircraft on Thursday was the latest in a series of incidents in the Gulf region. US FAA said according to flight tracking applications, the nearest civilian aircraft was operating within 45 nautical miles where the high-altitude US surveillance drone was destroyed by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.
“In light of the current situation, Emirates has taken precautionary measures including rerouting all flights away from areas of possible conflict,” an airline spokesperson told Khaleej Times.
“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,” Emirates underlined. The airline also noted that “the reroutings have minimally affected the arrival/departure timings” of some of their flights.
Etihad Airways also issued a statement on the airspace restriction. “Following the decision of the USFAA to ban US airlines from operating in a section of Iranian-controlled airspace, Etihad Airways has consulted closely with the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority to evaluate the US action,” a spokesperson from the Abu Dhabi-based airline said.
“Safety is paramount to Etihad Airways, and together with the GCAA, we have agreed to change a number of the flight paths we operate to and from the Arabian Gulf,” it added. Etihad will provide updates on affected flights on its global website, etihad.com, as information is provided by regulatory authorities about the airspace restrictions.
A spokesperson from flydubai also said that the low-cost carrier has adjusted some of their existing flight paths.
“flydubai is aware of the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued by the FAA for US-based airlines. We have adjusted some of the existing flight paths in the region as a precautionary measure. We continue to monitor the situation and make changes when necessary,” the spokesperson told Khaleej Times.
Sharjah-based Air Arabia has also issued a cautionary statement. An airline spokesperson said: “Air Arabia is aware of the notice issued by the FAA for US based airlines. We have taken all necessary precautionary measures to avoid areas of possible conflict. We are carefully monitoring the situation and working closely with the UAE Civil Aviation Authority in this regard.”
International carriers United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Qantas, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines all confirmed they are not flying over Iran.
A United Airlines spokesman said customers flying from Mumbai to Newark would be booked on alternative flights while Australia’s flag carrier Qantas Airways said that its flights over the Middle East would mean a slight change to the route for flights between Australia and London.
The US prohibition does not apply to airlines from other countries, but OPSGROUP, which provides guidance to operators, said it would be taken into consideration by carriers globally.