Airlines redirect flights amid soaring Middle East tensions

Published April 14, 2024
A Palestinian inspects the damage to vehicles in the village of Mughayir, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on Saturday.—AFP
A Palestinian inspects the damage to vehicles in the village of Mughayir, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on Saturday.—AFP

FRANKFURT: German airline Lufthansa said its planes would no longer use Iranian airspace as it extended a suspension on flights to and from Tehran amid soaring Middle East tensions.

“Due to the current situation, Lufthansa is suspending its flights to and from Tehran up to and including Thursday, 18 April,” a company spokesperson said on Friday.

“The airline is also no longer using Iranian airspace.” Its subsidiary Austrian Airlines followed suit.

The flights to the Iranian capital have been suspended since April 6. Lufthansa did not outline the immediate reasons for the suspension. In a statement, Austrian Airlines cited “the current situation in the Middle East”.

“For Austrian Airlines, the safety of its passengers and crews has top priority. The situation in the Middle East is being evaluated on an ongoing basis. To this end, Austrian is in close contact with the authorities”.

The move comes after Iran blamed arch-foe Israel for a strike in Syria this month that killed two Iranian generals, and threatened reprisals.

Israel has stepped up strikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria since the war in the Gaza Strip began in October.Australian airline Qantas said on Saturday it would redirect its long-haul flights between Perth and London to avoid Iran’s airspace amid soaring Middle East tensions.

A Qantas spokesperson said the airline would temporarily adjust the flight paths due to “the situation in parts of the Middle East”.

“We’ll reach out to customers directly if there’s any change to their booking,” the spokesperson said. The Perth-London flight, which is usually a non-stop 17-and-a-half hour journey, will now stop in Singapore to refuel, allowing it to carry a full load of passengers on an alternate route.

The return service — London to Perth — will continue to fly non-stop on a readjusted path due to prevailing winds. All other flights are not affected.

Qantas joins other airlines including Lufthansa and its subsidiary Austrian Airlines in redirecting flights to avoid Iranian airspace.Dutch airline KLM will no longer fly over Israel and Iran, Dutch press agency ANP reported on Saturday, citing a KLM spokesperson.

KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France-KLM, said the move was a precaution, referring to the rising tensions between Iran and Israel, but added that it would continue flying to Tel Aviv, on Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2024

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