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Operations remain normal for UAE airlines despite US airspace warning

Updated May 19, 2019

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“At this time, there are no changes to our flight operations," said a spokesperson for Emirates on Sunday. — AP/File
“At this time, there are no changes to our flight operations," said a spokesperson for Emirates on Sunday. — AP/File

UAE-based airlines continue to operate normally after the United States issued an air safety warning regarding “heightened” military activities in the Middle East, reported Gulf News on Sunday.

A day earlier, American diplomats had warned that commercial airliners flying over the Persian Gulf risk being targeted by “miscalculation or misidentification” from the Iranian military amid heightened tensions between the Islamic Republic and the US.

Etihad Airways, Emirates and flydubai told Gulf News on Sunday that they have not made any changes to their flight plans, although they are keeping a close watch of the situation.

“At this time, there are no changes to our flight operations. We are in close contact with the relevant authorities in the UAE and internationally and are monitoring the situation closely,” a spokesperson for Emirates was quoted as saying.

The airline assured that the safety of its operations remain its “utmost priority” and that it “will never be compromised”.

Etihad said they are operating normally but closely coordinating with the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and air navigation service providers globally.

A flydubai spokesperson said that pilots continue to follow internationally approved flight paths. “We are aware of the notice and we will continue to monitor the situation and comply with any directives issued by our regulator, GCAA,” the airline was quoted as saying.

The warning on Saturday relayed by US diplomatic posts from the Federal Aviation Administration, though dismissed by Iran, underscored the risks the current tensions pose to a region critical to both global air travel and trade. Oil tankers allegedly have faced sabotage and Yemen rebel drones attacked a crucial Saudi oil pipeline over the last week.

“Although Iran likely has no intention to target civil aircraft, the presence of multiple long-range, advanced anti-aircraft-capable weapons in a tense environment poses a possible risk of miscalculation or misidentification, especially during periods of heightened political tension and rhetoric,” the warning had said.

It also said aircraft could experience interference with its navigation instruments and communications jamming “with little to no warning”.

The warning comes 30 years after the USS Vincennes mistook an Iran Air commercial jetliner for an Iranian F-14, shooting it down and killing all 290 people onboard. That was not lost on Iran’s mission to the United Nations, which dismissed the warning as America’s “psychological war against Iran”.

“There has never been a threat or risk to civilian air traffic in the Persian Gulf from Iran,” mission spokesman Alireza Miryousefi told The Associated Press. “One cannot forget the fact that it was indeed a US warship that wantonly targeted an Iranian civilian passenger aircraft. The US has yet to apologise for that act of terrorism against Iranian civilians.”

The Persian Gulf has since become a major gateway for East-West travel in the aviation industry. Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates, home to Emirates, is the world’s busiest for international travel, while long-haul carriers Etihad and Qatar Airways also operate in the region.