At least half-a-dozen airlines around the world have confirmed that they will restrict flights over airspace in and around the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman amid the escalating tensions between the US and Iran.
On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US aviation regulator, barred American-registered aircraft from flying in the area in an emergency order, citing the risk of "miscalculation or misidentification."
According to the regulator, the closest civilian aircraft was flying about 45 nautical miles from the US Global Hawk spy drone shot down by an Iranian missile, and "numerous" other airliners were flying in the area at the same time.
United Airlines said it temporarily suspended India-bound flights to carry out a "thorough safety and security review." American Airlines and Delta Airlines issued statements that they had no routes over the areas affected.
A number of major European airlines, including Dutch flag carrier KLM, British Airways, and Germany's Lufthansa said they would follow the guidelines, although a Lufthansa spokesman confirmed that flights to Tehran will continue. Air France said it does not carry out flights in the Strait of Hormuz area.
The Abu-Dhabi-based Etihad airline said it was "carefully monitoring the current situation" and had "contingency plans…in place" after studying the US regulator's advice.
Australia's Qantas and Malaysian Airlines said similarly that they would avoid the area and reroute flights away from the region. Quantas said the rerouting would affect Australia-London flights, while Malaysia Airways said the airspace had been used for flights between Kuala Lumpur, London, Jeddah and Medina.
The tense situation in the Middle East escalated again on Thursday after Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps announced that it had shot down a US spy drone. The Pentagon and President Trump later confirmed losing the unmanned aerial vehicle, with Trump warning that Iran and the world would "find out" how the US would respond. The New York Times later reported, citing military and diplomatic officials, that Trump had approved attacks against multiple Iranian targets before rescinding his decision. On Friday, Iranian officials told Reuters that Tehran received a message from Trump warning about an imminent attack, but stressing that he was "against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran."
Meanwhile, both the Iranian and US military have released video footage reportedly showing the drone's destruction. Iran says it has proof that the drone was operating illegally in Iranian airspace, while the US maintains that the aircraft was flying over international airspace.
The drone incident is just the latest spike in US-Iranian tensions, with the US parking a carrier strike group in the Middle East last month and deploying fighter planes, strategic bombers, thousands of additional troops, anti-air missile systems and at least one amphibious landing ship in the region amid alleged concerns about Iranian attacks against US interests. Six oil tankers have also been targeted in apparent sabotage attacks in mid-May and last week, with the US and its allies accusing Tehran of being behind the attacks and Iran vehemently denying that it was involved.
At 00:14 US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace. It was targeted at 04:05 at the coordinates (25°59'43"N 57°02'25"E) near Kouh-e Mobarak.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) 20 июня 2019 г.
We've retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down. pic.twitter.com/pJ34Tysmsg