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More airlines avoid flying through Iran and Iraq airspace amid US-Iran tensions

Airlines have cancelled, rerouted flights after Iran struck a US airbase in Iraq [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 8 January, 2020

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Commercial airlines on Wednesday rerouted flights crossing the Middle East to avoid possible danger amid escalating tensions between the United States and Iran.

A growing number of airlines said on Wednesday they were avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace or flights to the region after Tehran fired ballistic missiles against bases housing US troops in Iraq.

"As a precautionary measure and following news of air strikes underway, Air France has decided to suspend until further notice all flights through Iranian and Iraqi airspace," an Air France spokesman told AFP.

Iran launched a series of missiles at the bases housing US troops in the early hours, officials in Washington and Tehran said.

Iran's supreme leader later called it a "slap in the face" after a US drone strike killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad international airport last week.

Shortly after the missile attacks, the US Federal Aviation Administration said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf.

The regions is an important corridor for flights travelling between Europe and Asia, although planes can be rerouted.

A KLM spokesman told AFP: "Until further notice, KLM has no flights over Iranian or Iraqi airspace. All flights to different Southeast Asian destinations and other destinations in the Middle East will be flown through alternative routes."

In Germany, Lufthansa said it had cancelled its daily flight to Tehran in addition to halting overflights of Iran and Iraq until further notice.

It added that Saturday's twice-weekly service to northern Iraqi city Erbil would also not depart.

Read more: Iran's Guards strike Iraq bases housing US troops

UAE carriers Emirates Airline and low-cost Flydubai said they had cancelled flights to Baghdad for "operational reasons".

Qatar Airways, however, said its flights to Iraq were operating normally.

"The safety of our passengers and employees is of the highest importance, and we continue to closely monitor developments in Iraq," the airline said in a statement.

'Appropriate adjustments'

Australia's Qantas said one of its London-Perth flights would be rerouted, with the other already flying an alternative route.

"We're adjusting our flight paths over the Middle East to avoid the airspace over Iraq and Iran until further notice," said a spokesman.

Both Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines said they would divert flights from Iranian airspace.

Vietnam Airlines said it will make "appropriate adjustments" of routes to avoid areas of potential instability although its regular flight paths to Europe do not pass over Iran and Iraq.

Japanese airlines ANA and JAL, and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific said their planes do not fly through airspace affected by latest flare-up.

Following the US Federal Aviation Administration decision, India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation advised Indian commercial carriers to avoid Iranian, Iraqi and Persian Gulf airspace.

German airline Lufthansa said it had canceled its flight from Frankfurt to Tehran on Wednesday in light of the current situation.The Russian aviation agency, Rosaviatsia, also issued an official recommendation for all Russian airlines to avoid flying over Iran, Iraq, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman "due to existing risks for the safety of international civil flights."

At least two Kazakh airlines - Air Astana and SCAT - were considering rerouting or canceling their flights over Iran following the crash of a Ukrainian plane that killed 176 people.

Read more: All 170 aboard crashed Ukrainian Boeing 737 jet dead, Iran confirms

The plane had taken off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in the Iranian capital when a fire struck one of its engines, said Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran's Road and Transportation Ministry.

Kazakhstan's officials said that Air Astana, the country's flagship carrier, "is currently holding a meeting on whether to reroute or ban" flights. SCAT, one of the largest airlines in Kazakhstan, told Russia's Interfax news agency that they were also considering rerouting flights.

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