NEW DELHI: India on Saturday asked its airlines to avoid flying in the over-water area of Tehran (Iran) airspace with the Strait of Hormuz that connects Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman at its heart. Iran’s territorial boundary extends up to 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) from its coastline to over-water and the shooting of a US military drone near the Strait of Hormuz has dramatically escalated tensions here.
While the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) advisory does not bar Indian airlines from transiting Iran over-land, the latter are seeing if that also can be avoided. The impact on Indian carriers will be limited to some of Air India’s flights on way back from the West (including Saudi Arabia, Europe and the US) to India and IndiGo’s Doha-Istanbul-Doha. AI’s west-bound flights will not be impacted.
“On the way back, they will need to reroute over Muscat, adding to flying time by 20-25 minutes. Similarly, Doha-Istanbul-Doha sector of IndiGo will be affected,” said a source. Airlines have indicated to the regulator fares of affected flights could see a rise by Rs 500. The new detour comes on top of the already longer routes flights between the west and south Asia, with Delhi at its heart, are taking after Pakistan closed its airspace since February 27. While they may add to travel time, better safe than anything else.
The DGCA on Saturday afternoon tweeted: “All Indian operators in consultation with the DGCA have decided to avoid the affected part of Iranian airspace to ensure safe travel for passengers. They will reroute flights suitably.”
All Indian operators in consultation with DGCA have decided to avoid the affected part of Iranian Airspace to ensur… https://t.co/OR8om6wnI8
— DGCA (@DGCAIndia) 1561199880000
A senior regulatory official said: “We issued the advisory to airlines early on Saturday morning. They are working out revised routings and will submit the same to relevant authorities. The first batch of flights affected by this advisory will be the ones flying back to India from Saturday evening after which all departures and arrivals will have to follow the ‘avoid Tehran over-water airspace advice’.”
Comforting passengers, Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani said: “(There will be) no substantial effect on AI flights. Details (are being) being worked out for rerouting incoming flights.”
The US Federal Aviation Administration had on Friday issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) saying: “All flight operations in the overwater area of the Tehran flight information region (FII) above the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman only are prohibited until further notice due to heightened military activities… in the region, which presents an inadvertent risk to US civil aviation operations and potential for miscalculation or mis-identification.”
US mega carrier United has already suspended both its India flights due to closure of en route airspaces of Iran (partially) and Pakistan. Lufthansa said its group airlines “have been proactively flying around the Strait of Hormuz since June 20. From June 21, the area will be expanded again noticeably.” Abu Dhabi-based Etihad said it has “suspended operations through Iranian airspace over the Straits of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, and will use alternative flight paths on a number of routes to and from Abu Dhabi until further notice”.