Airliners cancel Hormuz flights due to Iran-US war threat
The threat of war between the US and Iran has forced a number of airliners to suspend flihts over the Strait of Hormuz, agencies reported on Friday.
British Airways, Qantas and Singapore Airlines said flights over the troubled waterway in the Gulf were suspended after Iran shot down a US drone on Thursday.
The US cancelled last-minute airstrikes on Iran in retaliation, an event which would have sharply heightened tensions between the two sides.
The announcement came after the Federal Aviation Administration in the US issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), "prohibiting US-registered aircraft from operating over the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman".
This was in response to "heightened military activities and increased political tensions that might place commercial flights at risk", an FAA statement said.
The notice only applies to US-registered airlines, and United Airlines said it was suspending its Newark-Mumbai service in response.
European, Asian and Gulf operators soon followed up on the advice and also cancelled or re-routed flights to some detinations.
"Our safety and security team are constantly liaising with authorities - including the likes of the FAA - around the world as part of their comprehensive risk assessment into every route we operate," a BA spokeswoman said.
Germany's Lufthansa and Dutch airline KLM also announced they were avoiding the Hormuz area, although Air France said it was already flying farther south.
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"The incident with the drone is reason not to fly over the Strait of Hormuz for the time being. This is a precautionary measure," KLM said.
The airliner is likely mindful of the downing by a missile of flight MH17 in 2014 over eastern Ukraine', killing all 298 people on board, including 196 Dutch.
Malaysia Airlines said it "is closely monitoring the situation" and considering the warnings, while Australia's flag carrier Qantas said it was avoiding the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman "until further notice".
Dubai-based Emirates announced it was rerouting flights to avoid "areas of possible conflict", while the UAE's Etihad said it had "agreed to change a number of the flight paths" operating over the Gulf.
Iran and the US have been at loggerheads over the downing of the drone, which Tehran said took place its airspace, while Washington said the incident happened in international airspace.
The Global Hawk drone can reach heights of 18,000 metres (60,000 feet), nearly double the typical cruising height of a passenger plane.
A series of attacks on tanker ships in the Gulf have also been blamed on Tehran by the US.