Airline suspends flights over Iran airspace

A Russian warship reportedly launching a cruise missile in the Caspian Sea in a strike against Islamic militants in Syria, in a screen grab from a video released by the Russian Defence Ministry on Oct 7. The European Aviation Safety Agency's warning
A Russian warship reportedly launching a cruise missile in the Caspian Sea in a strike against Islamic militants in Syria, in a screen grab from a video released by the Russian Defence Ministry on Oct 7. The European Aviation Safety Agency's warning comes as Russia intensifies its air campaign.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Cathay Pacific's move follows safety body's warning about missiles being fired at Syria

HONG KONG • Hong Kong's flagship carrier Cathay Pacific has suspended flights over Iran and the Caspian Sea after the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued a warning about missiles being fired at Syria.

The air safety fears come as investigators issued their final report into the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, concluding it was shot down by a Russian-made Buk missile fired from war-torn eastern Ukraine.

The Boeing 777 was downed last year, killing all 298 people on board.

The EASA has stepped in as Russia intensifies its air campaign against Islamic militants in Syria.

Last week, Moscow launched a salvo of cruise missiles from its warships in the Caspian Sea.

Cathay Pacific said yesterday it had suspended flights in response to the dangers.

"In view of the situation in the region, Cathay Pacific suspended all flights over Iran and Caspian Sea since last Thursday until further notice," it said in a statement.

The airline said it had received safety advisories from both the EASA and the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) but added that neither had made specific recommendations to carriers.

Cathay Pacific already has a long-term policy not to overfly Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Syria, the statement said.

In its safety information bulletin released last week, EASA said "missiles en route to Syria crossed airspace in Iran and Iraq below flight routes used by commercial transport aeroplanes".

The missiles had been launched from the Caspian Sea, it said, adding that the advisory was to "create awareness" for airspace users. It did not give any specific guidelines or suggest restrictions.

Australian carrier Qantas said yesterday that it had chosen not to suspend flights over the area.

"The Europeans said that those issues were there, but didn't make any recommendations or changes to what airlines do," said chief executive Alan Joyce.

"If there was a problem, and if it does turn into being a problem, Qantas will not be flying aircraft through that airspace. But the information that we have is it is safe to do so."

 

Qantas flies over Iran on its Dubai to London leg.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) said in a statement yesterday: "Due to the situation in the Caspian Sea region, we had earlier re-routed some flights to and from Europe to avoid the affected Caspian Sea area. We have since resumed normal routings."

It said decisions on flight routes are made "based on numerous factors" including weather, safety and security conditions and advisories from international and regional bodies.

"The safety of our customers and crew is our No. 1 priority and we continuously review the areas that we overfly. Singapore Airlines only chooses routes that are safe and have been cleared for use by the authorities," an SIA spokesman said.

Russia said on Tuesday that its air force had hit 86 "terrorist" targets in Syria in the past 24 hours - the highest one-day tally since it launched its bombing campaign on Sept 30.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Airline suspends flights over Iran airspace'. Print Edition | Subscribe