On January 3, a U.S. drone strike assassinated top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and in an act of retaliation, Iran fired missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq on January 8. In the tense aftermath, Iran’s air defense accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner.
However, Dubai-based Emirates and sister carrier flydubai has announced they will continue to use Iranian airspace, Reuters reported on Sunday.
Kuwait Airways and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways are amongst other regional carriers that have continued using the airspace.
“We will continue to fly to Iran because Iran is an important country to us and it is our neighbor and we want to serve the people of Iran,” Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said.
“Iranian airspace is important for all carriers in this region,” said Adil al-Ghaith, Emirates’ senior vice president, the report said.
Executives and analysts believe that carriers in the Persian Gulf, a major transit stop between European and Asian destinations, have few alternative routes to choose from in an area where much of the airspace is kept clear of civilian aircraft for military use.
Previously, Russian airlines announced they have made no changes in using Iranian airspace.
Russia’s national airline Aeroflot completed a round trip from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport to the Iranian capital just hours after a handful of other international airlines canceled or diverted flights to avoid Iranian airspace.
Moreover, data from Flightradar24 website shows Aeroflot flight SU512 departed from Moscow on schedule at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday and landed in Tehran early Thursday morning and returned to Moscow as planned.
U.S. regulators have banned American airlines from flying over Iran, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and some other airlines including Air France, Air Canada, KLM, Lufthansa, and Qantas have confirmed they are avoiding parts of the region.
Iran’s tourism minister on January 12 said that the country’s tourism industry has suffered a setback but it will certainly return to “normal”, in remarks referring to the tragic crash. “These events are a major blow to tourism, but we will leave it behind by the means of new plans and we will definitely return to normal,” Ali-Asghar Mounesan said.