Major airlines canceled Iran and Iraq flights on Wednesday and re-routed others away from both countries’ airspace, following an Iranian missile strike on United States-led forces in Iraq.
Germany’s Lufthansa, Dubai-based Emirates and low-cost flydubai were among airlines that canceled flights, as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration barred American carriers from the area. But several other carriers continued operations over the affected airspace.
Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles from its territory targeting at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S.-led coalition personnel early on Wednesday, the U.S. military said.
Within hours, the FAA barred U.S. 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, which present an inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations.”
The flight ban came shortly before a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 burst into flames shortly after take-off from Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard in a crash blamed by Ukrainian authorities on an engine failure.
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Non-U.S. operators are not bound by the FAA’s flight ban, but they and other regulators consider its advice carefully when deciding where to fly.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is studying the situation, a spokeswoman said.
Airlines have taken more steps to avoid flying over conflict zones since 2014, when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was downed by a missile fired from Ukraine, killing 298 people. But re-routing increases flight times and burns extra fuel.
Australia’s Qantas Airways said on Wednesday it would add 50 minutes to its Perth-London flight time and cut passenger numbers to carry more fuel as it re-routes around Iran and Iraq.