Airlines suspend flights over Iran as fears of conflict with Israel mount

Move by Qantas, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines follows spate of warnings against travel to region

A Qantas passenger plane takes off from Sydney International Airport. The airline says its long-haul flights between Perth and London will not fly over Iran until further notice. AFP
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Australia's Qantas airline said on Saturday it would redirect its long-haul flights between Perth and London to avoid Iranian airspace as Middle East tensions increase.

The Sydney-based airline has joined others, including Germany's Lufthansa and its subsidiary Austrian Airlines, in such precautions.

A Qantas representative said the airline would temporarily adjust the flight paths in light of “the situation in parts of the Middle East”.

“We'll reach out to customers directly if there's any change to their booking,” the representative said.

Iran has threatened retaliation against Israel for an attack on Damascus on April 1 that killed two Iranian generals, raising fears of wider regional conflict triggered by Israel’s war in Gaza.

The Qantas Perth-London flight, which is typically a non-stop 17-and-a-half hour journey, will now stop in Singapore to refuel, allowing it to carry a full load of passengers on an alternative route.

The return service from London to Perth will continue to fly non-stop on a readjusted path due to prevailing winds.

All other flights are not affected.

Dutch airline KLM also said it would no longer fly over Iran or Israel, Dutch press agency ANP reported on Saturday, citing a KLM spokesperson.

KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France-KLM, said the move was a precaution, but added that it would continue flying to Tel Aviv, on Israel's Mediterranean coast.

German airline Lufthansa said on Friday that its planes would no longer use Iranian airspace as it extended a suspension on flights to and from Tehran.

“Due to the current situation, Lufthansa is suspending its flights to and from Tehran up to and including Thursday, April 18,” a company representative said Friday.

“The airline is also no longer using Iranian airspace.”

Its subsidiary Austrian Airlines followed suit.

The flights to the Iranian capital have been suspended since April 6.

Lufthansa did not specify the reasons for the suspension, but Austrian Airlines cited “the current situation in the Middle East”.

“For Austrian Airlines, the safety of its passengers and crews has top priority. The situation in the Middle East is being evaluated on a continuing basis. To this end, Austrian is in close contact with the authorities,” the airline said.

Countries including India, Canada, France, Poland and Russia have warned their citizens against travel to the region, already on edge over the war in Gaza, now in its seventh month. Germany on Friday called on its citizens to leave Iran.

The Netherlands said it would close its embassy in Tehran on Sunday as a precaution, citing the rising tensions between Iran and Israel.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry said it would decide on Sunday whether the embassy would reopen on Monday.

With reporting from agencies.

Updated: April 13, 2024, 12:50 PM