Airlines face higher fuel bills as flights are rerouted from Iran and Iraq

Germany's Lufthansa redirected flights from airspace in the region after Iranian forces fired missiles at military bases housing US troops in Iraq.
Germany's Lufthansa redirected flights from airspace in the region after Iranian forces fired missiles at military bases housing US troops in Iraq.PHOTO: REUTERS

MONTREAL • Airlines are facing higher fuel bills as they reroute flights to avoid airspace over Iran and Iraq due to heightened tension between Washington and Teheran, putting further financial pressure on an industry already contending with the prolonged grounding of Boeing's 737 Max jets.

Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Germany's Lufthansa and Air France-KLM have redirected flights from airspace in the region after Iranian forces fired missiles at military bases housing US troops in Iraq.

"Avoiding Iraqi/Iranian airspace is a double headache for airlines," independent aviation consultant John Strickland said, noting that longer journey times that would throw off schedules and add to operating costs.

Mr Mark Zee, founder of Opsgroup, which monitors global aerospace for risks that it shares with industry members, said rerouting to avoid Iranian and Iraqi airspace could add about 40 minutes to trips from Europe to Asia.

Australia's Qantas Airways said such a detour would add 50 minutes to its Perth to London flight time, forcing it to reduce passenger numbers - and therefore revenue - in order to carry more jet fuel.

Based on data from Flightradar24 and feedback from airline members, Mr Zee said carriers are largely redirecting their flights over parts of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has barred American carriers from airspace over Iran, the Gulf of Oman and the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia, citing "heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East".

Tensions in the region surged after a US drone strike killed a top Iranian military commander in Iraq last week, compounding industry challenges at a time when carriers are already reeling from stiff competition, increased regulations and the fallout from the 737 Max fleet's global grounding.

Etihad Airlines, Qatar Airways and Emirates Airline are still using the airspace, which remains open. "The Gulf carriers in total will have a headache, as they need to pass Iran to get to Europe," analyst Daniel Roeska said, adding that airlines flying from India to Europe would also suffer.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2020, with the headline 'Airlines face higher fuel bills as flights are rerouted'. Print Edition | Subscribe