Gulf Air reviews flight routes threat
Manama, August 1, 2014
Gulf Air, the national carrier of Bahrain, is setting up contingency plans to counter the growing threat of war-torn countries along its flight routes, a report said.
Both Gulf Air and the Dubai-based Emirates had flown over eastern Ukraine until flight MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile on July 17, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
Now, growing tensions in Syria, Iraq and Palestine have forced airlines to further revise their flight plans in a bid to enhance passenger safety.
On Wednesday, Emirates announced that it would avoid flying over Iraqi airspace - despite the fact that there is no evidence Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants in the country possess weapons capable of shooting down a civilian aircraft at cruising altitude.
Meanwhile, Gulf Air, which flies to Najaf in Iraq, will continue to serve the region but a spokeswoman told the GDN that "all necessary measures to ensure the safety of our passengers" are being taken.
Other major airlines that have chosen to continue flying over Iraq include Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways and Lufthansa, although British Airways and Air France are avoiding the country.
"Gulf Air does not currently fly through Syrian or Israeli airspace," said Gulf Air in a statement.
"While we do currently fly to Baghdad and Najaf in Iraq, given the current political climate, we are undertaking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of our passengers by preparing contingency plans in case of any escalation in the security situation or any perceived threat.
"These contingency plans could potentially involve suspending flights or re-routing aircraft away from Iraqi and neighbouring countries' airspace.
"At the moment, operations continue as normal although we are taking the necessary precautions and continue to closely monitor the situation while working closely with government and air traffic control authorities in Iraq to ensure that we are ready for all eventualities."
The International Civil Aviation Organisation met in Montreal, Canada, last Thursday and issued a statement to its members telling them to revise routes going through conflict zones.
It warned all airlines about mitigating the possibility of congestion, and its associated safety risks, in the event that aircraft are re-routed to circumnavigate conflict zones.
Gulf Air had previously announced that its flights surrounding Ukrainian airspace had all been rerouted in reaction to the growing threat.
"Gulf Air does not currently operate any direct flights between Bahrain and Ukraine," the airline said in a statement.
"Additionally, the national carrier has avoided Ukrainian airspace since March 30, re-routing our flights to alternative flight paths that are away from the region, following extensive route evaluations and as per an International Air Transport Association recommendations." – TradeArabia News Service