Forum: Why were flights over Iranian airspace not diverted earlier?

A poster of slain military commander Qasem Soleimani is seen at a memorial for the victims of a Ukrainian plane crash in the University of Teheran, on Jan 14, 2020.
A poster of slain military commander Qasem Soleimani is seen at a memorial for the victims of a Ukrainian plane crash in the University of Teheran, on Jan 14, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

I am concerned about the safety of international flights - particularly those operated by Singapore Airlines (SIA) - during military conflicts.

After news broke of the killing of Major-General Qassem Soleimani by the United States on Jan 3, I would have thought that SIA flights would immediately begin to avoid Iranian airspace.

The shooting down of the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 should have been a wake-up call to commercial airlines of the risks of flying over danger zones.

Yet, according to news reports, SIA started to avoid Iranian airspace only on Jan 8, after Iran launched a missile attack on Iraqi bases housing US-led troops (SIA, Scoot divert flights from Iranian airspace, Jan 9).

This should have been done earlier as Iranian retaliation to the killing of their general was very likely, and they could strike at any time.

Under such circumstances, I hope SIA will err on the side of caution in future by diverting flights earlier.

Detours are costly, but lives are even costlier.

Phillip Tan Fong Lip

The shooting down of the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 should have been a wake-up call to commercial airlines of the risks of flying over danger zones.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2020, with the headline 'Why were flights over Iranian airspace not diverted earlier?'. Print Edition | Subscribe