Airlines plan reroutes around Syria as potential for US military intervention increases

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

International airlines have responded to potential United States military escalation in Syria in the past several days by planning to reroute their airplanes around the region. Airlines with plans include Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, Bahrain-based Gulf Air, Kuwait-based Al Jazeera Airways, Dubai-based Emirates Airlines, and United Kingdom-based British Airways.

US President Barack Obama delayed a decision on potential US military action against Syria until after September 9, when the US Congress returns from recess.

In an e-mail to Arabian Business, an Etihad Airways spokesperson said, "The safety and security of our customers is absolutely paramount and we have drawn up robust flight re-routing contingency plans in the event of any airspace being closed to commercial aircraft. [...] Our 24 hours Network Operations Centre is constantly in communication with all air space management organisations in which we operate."

A British Airways spokesperson is quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald saying, "We are keeping our operations under review and we would make any changes that would be necessary".

Gulf Air said in an e-mail to Arabian Business, "Nonetheless, given the current political climate, the airline has fully prepared contingency plans in case of any military intervention in the coming days [...] These contingency plans are ready for implementation should there be any changes in the current situation in Syria. Such plans could potentially involve re-routing aircraft away from Syrian/neighbouring airspace. At the moment operations continue as normal and we are ready for all eventualities." Gulf Air says it currently has no flights passing over Syrian airspace.

Several airlines have already suspended commercial services into Syria, including Etihad who did so a year ago. Al Jazeera suspended their services during the final quarter of 2012. Last week, Cyprus Airways rescheduled their flights into Beirut because of the potential conflict. Several airlines have had to deal with similar situations in the past few years as a result of events connected to the Arab Spring that closed parts of Middle East airspace and airports.