Aircraft Diverted and Airspace Closed as Iran ‘Launches Attack’ on Israel

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Airlines are halting service to Israel as tensions in the Middle East escalate due to Iran’s “imminent attack” on Israel.

Airlines are responding to a dramatic escalation in tensions between Israel and Iran.

Reuters reports that Iran has launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel. The widely anticipated attack is seen as retaliation after an airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Syria last week.

The knock-on impact to aviation has been immediate, and is developing quickly. As well as diversions and cancellations into Tel Aviv, airspace over Israel, Iran, Iraq and Jordan has been closed or heavily restricted.

United Cancels Tel Aviv Flight

United Airlines was among the major carriers to cancel its service to Tel Aviv on Saturday. The U.S. carrier said it was also evaluating its Saturday services to Amman, Jordan but is currently not planning to cancel its Sunday service to Tel Aviv.

“We have canceled Saturday’s planned flight from Newark to Tel Aviv and its associated return flight due to restrictions on Israeli airspace,” a United spokesperson said. “We are closely monitoring the situation and will make decisions on upcoming flights with a focus on the safety of our customers and crews.”

Israel’s Channel 12 reported that the Iranian attack is expected to reach the country around 2am on Sunday (11pm GMT on Saturday).

What’s the Wider Impact on Passenger Fights?

Israeli national carrier El Al said it was canceling more than a dozen flights from Tel Aviv due to the situation.

Delta Air Lines recently resumed service to Israel in March, but it’s unclear if the carrier has stopped flights to Tel Aviv due to the attack. Delta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Aviation tracking service Flightradar24 reported that airspace in neighboring countries, including Iraq, is closed or heavily restricted. This is notable as the air corridors are usually used by hundreds of flights a day flying between Europe and Asia.

Airlines Take Precautions

United’s suspension comes as tensions in the Middle East have escalated due to the Israel-Hamas war. U.S. intelligence agencies reported earlier in the week that an attack from Iran on Israel was imminent.

Lufthansa suspended flights to Tehran after the intelligence reports became public.

Qantas Airways said Friday that it would not fly over Middle East airspace due to Iran’s attacks. Kuwait Airways said Saturday that it would divert all its flights from “the areas of tension.”

It is unclear if the U.S. will impose any similar restrictions over Middle East airspace if tensions continue to escalate. The FAA said to Skift that it was not changing any restrictions at the moment. 

Airlines operating in the region are well-versed in making continuous security assessments.

Most international carriers halted all flights to Tel Aviv after the start of the Israel-Gaza war in early October 2023. Many airlines including easyJet and British Airways had recently resumed services to the country.

This story is breaking and will be updated. 

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