Some Airlines Are Still Flying Over Syrian Airspace, Despite Warning of Possible Air Strikes

Apr 11, 2018

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Some major airlines are rerouting their flights in the eastern Mediterranean region on Wednesday to avoid flying through Syrian airspace. The move comes after the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, or Eurocontrol, sent an alert to aircraft to exercise caution because of possible air strikes on Syria.

Eurocontrol’s Tuesday warning detailed that air-to-ground cruise missiles could be used during the next 72 hours, with the possibility of intermittent disruption to radio navigation equipment.

“Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken when planning flight operations in the Eastern Mediterranean/Nicosia FIR area,” the notice said.

Some airlines, including Air France and easyJet, have said that they would take to rerouting some of their scheduled flights in order to avoid the airspace — routes to both Tel Aviv and Beirut.

As of nearly 8:00am ET, only one commercial flight could be seen flying over Syrian airspace — Iraqi Airways Flight 140 from Beirut (BEY) to Najaf, Iraq (NJF).

Since then, the only other airlines seen operating flights over Syrian airspace include the country’s flag carrier, Syrian Air, and Middle East Airlines, the flag carrier of Lebanon. As shown on flight-tracking website FlightRadar24, swarms of other aircraft are flying around the country — either through Iraq and into Turkey or south through Iraq, Jordan and Israel before hitting the Mediterranean Sea.

As of 9:00am ET, only a Middle Eastern Airlines flight could be seen in Syrian airspace.

Although the Eurocontrol warning didn’t label the origin of any specific missile threat, it’s not all that surprising to see enhanced precautions. In 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 from Amsterdam (AMS) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL) was downed by a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board. Since the crash, aviation regulators have been more keen on alerting aircraft of potential threats from conflict zones.

Already, aviation regulators in some countries like the US, Britain, France and Germany have warned airlines about entering Syrian airspace, reports Reuters. Many carriers already avoid the space entirely.

“As a proactive precaution, Lufthansa Group airlines have already avoided the airspace in the eastern Mediterranean for some time now,” said a spokesman for Lufthansa.

Ryanair and British Airways said that operations are operating normally, but the situation was being monitored, and Etihad similarly said that its services to all destinations were operating normally, but it was maintaining a high level of surveillance across its network.

In recent days, the conflict in Syria has escalated following a suspected chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. On Wednesday, President Trump warned Russia that it should “get ready” for a missile strike on Syria.

Featured image by Stringer / Getty Images.

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