Airlines Resume Flights Over Iranian Airspace in Spite of Tensions Over Downed Drone

Airlines Resume Flights Over Iranian Airspace in Spite of Tensions Over Downed Drone

Last month, major commercial carriers from the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East halted flights over much of Iran’s southern airspace amid tensions between Washington and Tehran over an incident involving the destruction of a US drone by an Iranian surface to air missile.

Flights over Iranian airspace in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman have increased and reached a ‘normal level’ of 840 flights per day, Iran Airports and Air Navigation Company head Siavash Amir Mokri has said, PressTV has reported.

According to Mokri, the normalisation of commercial flights in the area comes despite the June 21 Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued by the US Federal Aviation Administration restricting flights over Iran following the destruction of a $130 million US spy drone.

The aviation official said commercial carriers restored their flights in the area amid economic considerations and after observing that security in the Persian Gulf had improved.

“That tension is gone and airline companies have understood that the country’s airspace is still safe,” Mokri said.

Iran has filed a complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organization over the FFA NOTAM amid losses to the country’s overflight fee revenue. According to Mokri, Iran’s overflight fees reached $180 million during the year ending March 2019, serving as an important source of government revenue.

Multiple commercial carriers including United Airlines, KLM, British Airways, Lufthansa, Etihad, Saudi Airlines, Qantas and Malaysian Airlines altered their flight paths last month amid US-Iranian military tensions near Iranian airspace.

Mokri did not specify which carriers had resumed the operation of their traditional flight routes.

According to FAA figures, the nearest civilian aircraft flying in the Gulf on June 20 near where the US drone was shot down was 45 nautical miles from the site of the incident, with multiple other airliners flying in the area at the time.

US-Iran tensions led to the accidental shoot-down of a civilian airliner once before. On July 3, 1988, a US warship shot down an Iran Air Airbus A330 passenger jet operating in Iranian airspace in the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 passengers and crew on board. The US Navy initially blamed the aircraft’s pilots for the incident, saying it had made repeated attempts to contact the aircraft but received no response.

US officials later apologised for the plane’s destruction and issued monetary compensation, but the warship’s crew were nonetheless given medals for their tour of duty, with the ship’s commander receiving a Legion of Merit “for exceptionally meritorious conduct.”


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