The restriction to fly over Iran Airspace has added another 30 minutes to the trip duration of Kerala – Saudi Arabia flights, making it difficult for the airlines. The airlines are asked to avoid flying over the water area of Tehran airspace with the Strait of Hormuz which connects the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
The detour to avoid Iran airspace is leading to extra usage of fuel of 1 ton per flight on Boeing 737s, according to Air India Express that provides services between Kerala and Dammam and Riyadh. According to a senior official, the airline is currently bearing the cost of the extra fuel, but the airline plans to pass the additional cost to the flyers if the restriction goes for long. Besides Air India Express, IndiGo’s flight on Doha-Istanbul-Doha route is also affected by the ban.
The shooting of a US military drone by Saudi near the Strait of Hormuz commenced the tension in the area. Following the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States issued a notice to airmen prohibiting the service over over-water area of Tehran. Indian aviation authorities too issued a ban following the FAA order.
Although Saudi shot down an uncrewed aircraft, the FAA decided to ban the flights fearing that Iran could misidentify a civilian aircraft as a drone.
Many international airlines besides US flights have banned their services in the light of the threat. Germany’s Lufthansa said it had been avoiding the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman since Thursday. But, the airline is continuing to provide service to Tehran. Dutch carrier KLM also avoids the Strait as a precautionary measure. Australia’s Qantas is rerouting its flights to and from London to avoid the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.