Nepal Airlines said its Kathmandu-Doha service have avoided Iranian airspace as tensions between Tehran and Washington escalate following the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by a US drone in Iraq.
Nepal Airlines flies daily to the Qatari capital Doha at 10:25 pm. The carrier has been using Iranian airspace since 2017 after several Arab nations barred aircraft from flying to Doha through their airspace.
“For today [Wednesday], we have decided to avoid the Iranian airspace. We are monitoring the situation closely and will make the appropriate long-term adjustments to our route to Doha after necessary discussion with Minister of Foreign Affairs,” said a Nepal Airlines official at the Operation Control Centre at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. Nepal Airlines officials are scheduled to hold the meeting with foreign ministry officials on Thursday regarding the route amid ongoing security fears.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017 accusing the gas-rich state of supporting terrorism. Nepal Airlines has been giving UAE airspace a wide berth by flying over southern Iran to reach Doha.
Nepal Airlines officials said rerouting the flight may increase the flying time by around 10 minutes only. Many air routes connecting Southeast Asia and Europe pass over Iran. For airlines, diverting flights from their normal routes could mean longer flight times and higher fuel costs.
An official at Turkish Airlines said they didn’t have any plans to reroute their services. Qatar Airways officials told the Post that they would fly the usual route.
The Federal Aviation Administration of the US issued the airspace ban, which also includes the Gulf of Oman and the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia, ‘due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East, which present an inadvertent risk to US civil aviation operations’.
On Wednesday, India advised its airlines to avoid overflying Iran,Iraq and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, after theUS Federal Aviation Administration barred its carriers from doing so.