Ten­sions in Mid­dle East af­fect­ing air­lines

Orlando Sentinel - - BUSINESS - By Emily Schmall

NEW DELHI — Com­mer­cial air­lines are rerout­ing flights through­out the Mid­dle East to avoid po­ten­tial dan­ger dur­ing height­ened ten­sions be­tween the United States and Iran.

Jum­bled sched­ules could af­fect as many as 15,000 pas­sen­gers per day, lengthen flight times by an av­er­age of 30 to 90 min­utes, and se­verely bruise the bot­tom line for air­lines, in­dus­try an­a­lysts said.

There is anx­i­ety that the con­flict be­tween the long­time foes could in­ten­sify fol­low­ing Ira­nian bal­lis­tic mis­sile strikes Wednesday on two Iraqi bases that house U.S. troops.

At least 500 com­mer­cial flights travel through Ira­nian and Iraqi airspace daily, Dubai-based avi­a­tion con­sul­tant Mark Martin said.

Poland’s na­tional car­rier, PLL LOT, said Satur­day that it was chang­ing routes to by­pass Iran’s airspace.

Other Euro­pean car­ri­ers fol­lowed Wednesday, and the re­stric­tions were ex­pected to “fur­ther de­press” air travel be­tween Iran and Western Europe, which saw strong growth af­ter the Iran nu­clear deal but a sharp dive when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agree­ment and reim­posed sanc­tions, ac­cord­ing to the Syd­ney-based Cen­ter for Avi­a­tion con­sul­tancy.

Air France and Dutch car­rier KLM both said Wednesday that they had sus­pended all flights over Ira­nian and Iraqi airspace in­def­i­nitely. Ger­man air­line Lufthansa and two of its sub­sidiaries also can­celed flights to Iraq.

The Rus­sian avi­a­tion agency, Rosavi­at­sia, is­sued an of­fi­cial rec­om­men­da­tion for all Rus­sian air­lines to avoid fly­ing over Iran, Iraq, the Per­sian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman “due to ex­ist­ing risks for the safety of in­ter­na­tional civil flights.”

Asia-Pa­cific car­ri­ers were also ex­pected to be hit hard, Martin said.

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