New Delhi: Amid rising geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran, Indian airlines in consultation with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Saturday decided to “avoid the affected part of the Iranian airspace” to ensure safe travel for passengers and reroute all flights “suitably".
The announcement comes after Iran on Thursday shot down a US military drone in its airspace, following which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had warned of a possibility that commercial aircraft can be mistakenly targeted in Iranian airspace. The FAA is the American aviation regulator.
Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani said there will be "no substantial effect on Air India flights".
"Details are being worked out for rerouting of the incoming planes," he added.
As the majority of Pakistani airspace has remained closed for Indian airlines since the Balakot strike on February 26, the decision to avoid affected Iranian airspace on Saturday is going to further disturb the routes of their international flights towards middle-eastern and European countries, and the US.
Post the Balakot strike, Air India had to re-route, merge or suspend many of its international flights that connect India with European and American cities.
On Friday, the FAA issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) prohibiting US-registered aircraft from operating "in the over-water area of the Tehran Flight Information Region until further notice, due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions".
The Etihad Airways has also suspended operations through the Iranian airspace over the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, a spokesperson said on Saturday. The airline will use alternative flight paths on a number of routes to and from its home base of Abu Dhabi until further notice.
The second largest airline in the United Arab Emirates, the Etihad Airways consulted closely with the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority and other UAE airlines to evaluate the US action.
Other leading carriers that have halted flights over the Strait of Hormuz include British Airways, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and KLM.
United Airlines has also decided to stop its Mumbai-Newark flight till September 1.
In a statement, the US-based airline said, "Given current events in the Middle East and the continued closure of Pakistani airspace, we have decided to suspend our service between India (Mumbai and Delhi) and Newark until September 1."
Europe-Asia flights have already faced disruption since February, when Pakistan restricted large swathes of airspace near its eastern border with India due to military clashes between the nuclear-armed rivals.
US-Iran tensions have deteriorated after an attack on two oil tankers on June 13 near the Strait of Hormuz, an important oil transporting route lying between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Washington has blamed Iran for the attack.
(With inputs from agencies)