SIA joins other airlines in avoiding airspace controlled by Teheran

In response to queries from The Straits Times, an SIA spokesman said its flights will also look to avoid the affected area, and that it only chooses routes that are safe and cleared for use by the authorities.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, an SIA spokesman said its flights will also look to avoid the affected area, and that it only chooses routes that are safe and cleared for use by the authorities. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE • Some Singapore Airlines flights to Europe may take "slightly longer" routings to avoid Iranian-controlled airspace over the Strait of Hormuz amid ongoing tensions between Iran and the United States, an SIA spokesman said yesterday.

Flights to and from some SIA destinations, such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Dusseldorf, would be affected, the spokesman added.

The move came as the world's leading carriers yesterday diverted their flights to avoid Iranian-controlled airspace over the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman, following a US aviation regulator's emergency order that barred its carriers from flying over the area, Reuters reported.

The emergency order from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday came after Iran shot down a high-altitude US drone with a surface-to-air missile, sparking concerns about a threat to the safety of commercial airlines.

The downing of the unarmed Global Hawk drone, which can fly up to an altitude of 18,300m (60,000 feet), was the latest in a series of incidents in the Gulf region - a critical artery for global oil supplies - that included explosive strikes on six oil tankers.

The FAA said it issued the order in response to "heightened military activities and increased political tensions that might place commercial flights at risk".

"There were numerous civil aviation aircraft operating in the area at the time of the intercept," said the FAA, adding that its prohibition would stay in place until further notice.

 
 
 
 

Ahead of the order, United Airlines said it had suspended flights between New Jersey's Newark airport and India's financial capital of Mumbai following a safety review.

Emirates Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Australia's Qantas Airways, Germany's Lufthansa, British Airways and KLM of the Netherlands said they were re-routing flights to avoid the area, Reuters reported.

In July 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by a missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 on board, prompting carriers to take more steps to uncover threats to their planes. But concerns persist over inadequate government intelligence sharing and a reluctance by countries involved in conflicts to divulge information or sacrifice overflight fees by closing their skies, according to safety experts.

Data from flight tracking website Flightradar24 yesterday showed flights from Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways in the area barred to US carriers.

On Monday, before the drone was shot down, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar al-Baker told Reuters that the airline "has a very robust plan B for any eventualities, including if there is a conflict in our region".

Etihad Airways said it was monitoring the situation and had adopted contingency plans.

On Thursday, two other US carriers, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, said they did not fly over Iran. Japanese carriers Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings also said they did not fly over the area.

  • Additional reporting by Toh Ting Wei
 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2019, with the headline 'SIA joins other airlines in avoiding airspace controlled by Teheran'. Print Edition | Subscribe