Commercial airlines have made changes to their flights throughout the Middle East to avoid potential danger during the growing tensions between the United States and Iran, with those companies already facing higher fuel costs as their flights avoid airspace over Iran and Iraq due to the tensions, according to media channels on Thursday January 9th.
Industry analysts said that mixed schedules may affect up to 15,000 passengers per day, extend flight times by 30 to 90 minutes, and significantly affect airline performance, according to the Associated Press. This will increase financial pressures in a sector that is already suffering the effects of a prolonged shutdown of the Boeing 737 MAX.
Reuters reported that German Lufthansa, Air France, "Dutch" KLM, and Singapore and Malaysia Airlines have changed flight routes over Iraq and Iran. The companies’ decision came after the Iranian Revolutionary Guards launched ballistic missiles at two military bases hosting American forces in Iraq at dawn on Wednesday.
However, Lufthansa and its Austrian Airlines unit nonetheless have decided to maintain flights to the Iranian capital, Tehran, this week, saying that "since Tehran Airport is open and there are no security restrictions for the approach route or the area around the airport” the airlines will operate with a delay of around six hours.
A Ukrainian plane crashed over the Iranian capital, Tehran, simultaneously, but the cause of the accident is not yet clear.
"Avoiding Iraqi / Iranian airspace avoids a double headache for airlines," air transport consultant John Strickland said in an e-mail to Reuters. Strickland noted that flight times will increase, scheduling will get confused and there will be an increase operating costs.
More Fuel and Less Passengers
Mark Z, the founder of "OPs Group", which monitors the dangers of airspace around the world, said that adjusting the tracks to avoid Iranian and Iraqi airspace could extend the times of flights from Europe to Asia by about 40 minutes.
Australian "Qantas Airlines" said that such an amendment would add 50 minutes to the time of its flight from Perth to London, forcing it to reduce the number of passengers - and thus revenues - to carry more fuel on the plane.
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, said its flight times to and from Mumbai would be "slightly longer than expected".
Flight Radar 24 application data and airline testimonies show that many airlines have changed routes for many of the flights to Saudi Arabia and parts of Egypt.
The US Federal Aviation Administration has prohibited American airlines from using the airspace of 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".
Malaysia Airlines said that "due to the recent events, its aircraft will avoid Iranian airspace".
Singapore Airlines has also stated that its flights to Europe will be redirected to avoid Iran.
The two Taiwanese airlines, China Airlines and Eva Airways, announced that they redirected their flights to Europe on Wednesday, January 8th, to avoid Iraqi and Iranian airspace. They said that future path decisions will depend on regional developments.
In addition, the Directorate General of Indian Civil Aviation advised Indian transport companies to avoid Iranian and Iraqi airspace and the Persian Gulf.
"In light of the tensions within the Iranian airspace, a decision has been made to re-operate two temporary flights of Air India over Iran," said Air India spokesman Danangai Kumar. The company said travel times will increase by up to 40 minutes for flights in the region.
Buta Airlines, a low-cost Azerbaijani airline, said on Wednesday that it does not plan to suspend or forward daily flights between Baku, the country's capital, and Tehran.
In good news for the sector, oil futures fell 4% on Wednesday dropping from the peak of 4 months earlier, thanks to the decline in the war of statements from Washington and Tehran, and the fact that Iran's missile attack did not harm any oil installations.
In December, global airlines lowered their earnings forecasts for the sector as a whole in 2019, weighed down by trade tensions, but expected a recovery in 2020.