A NUMBER of flight operators have enforced flight bans over Iranian-administered airspace in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman amid ongoing tensions between the US and Iran.
The decision comes after it was reported that president Trump made preparations for for a military strike against Iran, focusing on targeting radar and missile batteries, in retaliation for the downing of a surveillance drone. The operation was abruptly called off with just ‘minutes’ to go.
President Trump said the US was ‘cocked and loaded’ to retaliate against Iran, but cancelled the strikes 10 minutes before they were to be carried out after being told some 150 people could die — an outcome ‘not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone’, according to Mr Trump’s Twitter account.
Australia’s Qantas and Dutch carrier KLM today said that their planes would also avoid the region, requiring Qantas to reroute its London flights to avoid the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman, while KLM said it would avoid the strait.
German airline Lufthansa said it is no longer flying planes over the Strait of Hormuz or the Gulf of Oman, with flights suspended over the two bodies of water, with the zone expanding today to include surrounding areas of land.
British Airways will re-route flights away from the Strait of Hormuz.
The FAA previously warned of a risk in the region, but today’s warning threw into stark relief a danger both it and analysts warned was real after the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine in 2014.
That could further imperil the bottom lines of Gulf long-haul carriers, which have already faced challenges under the Trump administration.
‘The threat of a civil aircraft shoot-down in southern Iran is real,’ warned OPSGROUP, a company that provides guidance to global airlines.
The FAA made a similar warning in May to commercial airliners of the possibility of Iranian anti-aircraft gunners mistaking them for military aircraft, something dismissed by Tehran some 30 years after the US navy shot down an Iranian passenger jet.
The Persian Gulf is home to some of the world’s top long-haul carriers, who have already been battered by Trump’s travel bans targeting a group of predominantly Muslim countries, as well as an earlier ban on laptops in plane cabins for Middle East carriers.