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Iran-Israel conflict forces airlines to reroute, suspend service

Airlines are weighing an ever narrowing set of options to fly between Europe and Asia after grappling with airspace shutdowns in the wake of the first direct Iranian attack on Israel from its soil.
Airlines are weighing an ever narrowing set of options to fly between Europe and Asia after grappling with airspace shutdowns in the wake of the first direct Iranian attack on Israel from its soil.

By Olivia Poh, Danny Lee and Charlotte Ryan

(Bloomberg) — Iran’s first direct attack from its soil on Israel over the weekend has complicated flights in one of the most densely traversed regions of the world, forcing airlines to choose lengthy detours from cities like London or Paris to destinations in the Persian Gulf or India.

Several Middle Eastern countries including Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon temporarily closed their airspace over the weekend as Iran launched drones and missiles. Both Israel and Iran also imposed restrictions on airline traffic, requiring airlines to rerout, thereby extending flight times and adding to fuel costs.

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European airlines were taking a variety of approaches on Monday, with EasyJet Plc pausing operations to and from Israel’s Tel Aviv, while British Airways Plc is still operating flights to Israel and Jordan. The carrier faced disruption over the weekend when a flight en route to Jordan was forced to turn around because of the airspace closures.

Other carriers that have circumnavigated the region or stopped service to places like Israel and Jordan include Qantas Airways Ltd., Singapore Airlines Ltd., Air France and Deutsche Lufthansa AG.

Air France said that it plans to restart flights to Beirut Monday and to Tel Aviv Tuesday, following the reopening of Israeli and Lebanese airspace. However, it said journeys to destinations such as Dubai, India and Singapore would see flight times increase by as much as 45 minutes due to changes to the flight schedule. Dutch partner KLM said it had canceled flights to Tel Aviv Monday.

“Air France reiterates that the safety of its customers and crews is its top priority,” the airline said. “The company is constantly monitoring developments in the geopolitical situation of the territories served and overflown by its aircraft in order to ensure the highest level of flight safety and security.”

Qatar Airways and Emirates resumed some suspended Middle Eastern services on Sunday as airspaces reopened.

Iran’s airspace is frequently utilized by airlines traveling between Europe and India or Southeast Asia. Airspace across the Middle East are littered with risks and complexities. Airlines are contending with a set of challenges after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine severed access for many carriers forcing lengthy diversions which exist to this day.

Earlier in Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, airlines faced scores of disruptions primarily centered on Tel Aviv, cancelling flights into or out of the country.

Israel shut down its airspace for both domestic and international routes on Saturday, before reopening them Sunday morning. Lebanon and Iraq too resumed flights over their territories.

The latest diversions come as Israel and its allies, led by the US, fended off Iran’s response to a suspected Israeli attack on Iran’s embassy in Syria on April 1, which killed a top military commander. Iran said on Saturday its forces seized an Israel-linked container ship near the Strait of Hormuz.

Days earlier, Lufthansa Group suspended flights to several cities in the Middle East. The group — whose airlines include Germany’s flag carrier Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Swiss International Air Lines — said Sunday that it will resume flights to Tel Aviv, Erbil in Iraq and Amman on Tuesday, while those to Beirut and Tehran will continue to be halted until at least April 18.

Qantas had temporarily adjusted its direct Perth-London flights to stop over in Singapore to account for the extra fuel needed to re-route around the volatile region.

Singapore Air said that its flights were not overflying Iranian airspace. Cathay Pacific Ltd. is watching the situation in the Middle East closely, but its operations remain normal, a spokesman said in a text message Sunday.

—With assistance from Siddharth Philip, Leen Al-Rashdan and Kate Duffy.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.