Gulf carriers are continuing to serve cities in Iraq and Iran and overfly the two countries, despite major international airlines choosing to avoid the airspace following military action between the US and Iran, Reuters reports.
The Gulf region links Europe and Asia and there are few alternative routes, with much of the airspace reserved for militaries and off limits to civilian aircraft.
In recent weeks, international airlines, including US carriers, Qantas, Lufthansa, Air France and Singapore Airlines, have avoided Iranian and Iraqi airspace.
Earlier this month, US regulator FAA placed a ban on US carriers from operating in airspace over Iraq, Iran, the Gulf of Oman and the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia. While the ban applied to US airlines, most foreign operators take advice from the FAA very seriously and opt to follow its advice.
Iran accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, mistaking it for a hostile cruise missile, amid rising tensions with the US after President Donal Trump authorised a drone strike on a top Iranian general.
Carriers like Emirates are no strangers to dealing with the challenging geopolitical climate of the Middle East and have continued to grow in spite of various tensions and wars. Altering flight paths around airspace often uses more fuel and is costly.
While some carriers, including Emirates, flydubai, Royal Jordanian and Gulf Air, temporarily halted flights to Baghdad in the immediate aftermath of the American drone strike, services quickly resumed.
Kuwait Airways and Etihad Airways have also continued to use Iranian and Iraqi airspace. But Gulf Air has rerouted some flights to Europe to fly over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which is costlier.
Gulf Air’s deputy chief executive, Waleed Abdulhameed al-Alawi, told Reuters: “We want to take the safest option even if it costs us a little bit more for a period of time. We can live with that.”
The UAE’s aviation regulator reminded carriers of their responsibility to look after passengers and advised them to “evaluate flight path risks”.