Major airline travel disruption in the Middle East due to airspace closures
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Major airline travel disruption in the Middle East

Major airline travel disruption in the Middle East

Airlines traveling between Europe and Asia will be restricted to two viable alternative routes

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Global airlines faced disruptions to flights on Monday after tensions arose in the Middle East with narrowed options for planes navigating between Europe and Asia.

At least a dozen airlines have had to cancel or reroute flights over the last two days, including Qantas, Germany’s Lufthansa, United Airlines and Air India.

This was the biggest single disruption to air travel since the attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, according to Mark Zee, founder of OPS GROUP, which monitors airspace and airports.

“Not since then have we had a situation with that many different air spaces closed down in that quick succession, and that creates chaos,” Zee told Reuters, adding that disruptions were likely to last a couple more days.

Airlines forced to reroute due to closed airspace

Countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Iran closed their airspace, forcing airlines to re-route creating a cascading effect on the schedule.

The latest routing problems are a blow to an industry already facing a host of restrictions due to the ongoing Israel crisis as well as Russia and Ukraine.

Airlines travelling between Europe and Asia will be restricted to two viable alternative routes, either through Turkey or via Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Zee said.

However, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon resumed flights over their territories late on Sunday.

Major Middle East airlines — including Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways — said on Sunday they would resume operation in the region after cancelling or rerouting some flights.

Etihad warned that as services return to normal after the temporary closure of airspace across parts of the Middle East.

“There may still be a risk of some knock-on disruption across Monday 15,” said Etihad in a statement to The National.

flyDubai, which saw multiple flight cancellations confirmed the disruptions in its operations. “Some of our flights have been affected by the temporary closure of a number of airspaces in the region,” read a statement from flyDubai as per state news agency WAM.

It was not yet clear if the latest unrest would impact passenger demand, which has remained robust despite ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, said Brendan Sobie, an independent aviation analyst.

“If the political situation and the conflicts continue to escalate then at some point people will be concerned about travelling, but so far that hasn’t happened,” Sobie said.

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