After the Iranian Revolutionary Guard shot down a US military drone over its airspace on Thursday, brewing tensions between the two countries have impacted flight operations of American carriers. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) late Thursday issued an emergency directive prohibiting all US flights from flying over Tehran-controlled airspace.
Will this affect Indian passengers?
Leading US carrier United Airlines has temporarily suspended operations between Mumbai and Newark citing security concerns via Iranian airspace. The carrier said it had “conducted a thorough safety and security review” before deciding to indefinitely scrap the flight. United’s Newark-Delhi flight already remained suspended due to airspace restrictions over Pakistan. Following United’s suspension, flag-carrier Air India is now the only airline to fly non-stop from India to the US. However, a number connecting flights by West Asian, European and East Asian airlines continue to offer one-stop flights from India to the US.
Why has the US imposed restrictions in flying over Iran airspace?
There have been precedents where civilian flights have come under safety threat when flying over regions with ongoing geopolitical tensions. The most recent case being the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 using a surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine in 2014 at the height of the Crimean crisis.
Similarly, in 1983, a Korean Air passenger aircraft was shot down in restricted Soviet airspace by a Russian fighter jet during the Cold War. In both these cases, the passenger jets were mistaken for military or spy planes.