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Iranian Drone Attacks Force Airspace Closures, Airlines to Cancel or Divert Flights

Iranian Drone Attacks Force Airspace Closures, Airlines to Cancel or Divert Flights

BY GEORGE MWANGI Published on April 14, 2024 0 COMMENTS

Several Middle Eastern countries closed their airspace to flights after Iran launched a drone attack against Israel on April 13. This drone attack comes a few days after an Israeli airstrike on the Iranian embassy in Damascus killed seven officers from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Multiple airlines canceled or diverted flights flying over the region amid the worsening geopolitical environment.


A regional flight map as of 8:15 pm ET on April 13
The region's airspace at 8:15 p.m. ET on April 13 | Photo: Flightradar24


Countries That Closed Their Airspace


Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Syria have all closed their airspace to civilian airlines. Any flights currently operating in the region must fly over Saudi Arabia or Iran. Data from Flightradar24 shows no flights over these countries as of 8:15 p.m. Eastern Time on April 13. Major flight disruptions are expected since hundreds of flights between Europe and Asia go over the affected region daily. 




The Israel Airports Authority released this statement about the airspace closure:


“In accordance with the guidance of the security system, starting at (12:30 am) the airspace of the state of Israel will be closed to international and domestic flights.”


Photo: Lucas Wu | AeroXplorer


Meanwhile, Lebanon's Public Works Minister Ali Hamie said about its airspace:


“Due to the developments in the region and our keenness on the safety and security of Lebanese airspace, the Ministry of Public Works announces that Lebanese airspace is closed to all incoming, outgoing, and overflying aircraft, temporarily and precautiously, starting from 1am today on Sunday, April 14, 2024, until 7am of the same day.”


Finally, Iraq's Transport Minister Razzak al-Saadawi said: “Iraq's airspace has been closed and air traffic has been halted.”


Israel later reopened its airspace around 7:30 a.m. local time on April 14. Israeli authorities stated that domestic airlines may continue to face delays. Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon also reopened their airspace on April 14.


Photo: Ejaaz Cadinouche | AeroXplorer


Airlines That Diverted or Canceled Flights


United Airlines has canceled its two scheduled flights to Israel and Jordan. The airline's routes from Newark (EWR) to Tel Aviv (TLV) and from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Amman (AMM) were called off due to airspace closures. These flight changes come only one month after United resumed service to Israel, with Delta Air Lines also expected to reinstate flights from New York (JFK) on June 7.


United Airlines uses a Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner for its Newark (EWR) - Tel Aviv (TLV) route
Photo: Ricardo Mungarro | AeroXplorer


A United spokesperson said about the flight cancellations:


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


The following carriers have canceled flights to the region on April 14:


  • Aegean Airlines: Athens (ATH) to Tel Aviv
  • Air Canada: Toronto (YYZ) to Tel Aviv
  • Air France: Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Tel Aviv
  • Air India: Delhi (DEL) to Tel Aviv
  • British Airways: London-Heathrow (LHR) to Tel Aviv and Amman
  • El Al: 15 flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai (DXB), Moscow (DME), and several European destinations
  • Egyptair: All flights to Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon were canceled.
  • Emirates: Dubai (DXB) to Amman and Tel Aviv
  • Ethiopian Airlines: Addis Ababa (ADD) to Tel Aviv
  • Etihad Airways: Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Tel Aviv and Amman
  • FlyDubai: All flights to Iran, Israel, Jordan, and Iraq were canceled.
  • LOT Polish Airlines: Warsaw (WAW) to Tel Aviv
  • Lufthansa: Frankfurt (FRA) to Amman and Tel Aviv
  • Pegasus Airlines: Istanbul (SAW) and Antalya (AYT) to Amman
  • Royal Jordanian: Baghdad (BGW) to Amman
  • Saudia: Jeddah (JED) to Amman
  • Swiss International Air Lines: Zürich (ZRH) to Tel Aviv 
  • Turkish Airlines: All flights to Iran, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon were canceled.
  • Wizz Air: Bucharest (OTP) to Tel Aviv


Photo: Michael Hai | AeroXplorer


Israeli airlines like El Al and Arkia made various flight schedule changes. El Al's flights to London, Frankfurt, Berlin (BER), Bucharest (OTP), Athens, Paris, and Rome-Fiumicino (FCO) successfully took off. Arkia is currently determining its flight schedule after initially postponing flights to Athens, Milan-Malpensa (MXP), and Geneva (GVA). 


El Al and its subsidiary, Sun d'Or, will offer extra flights from the U.S. and Europe for Israelis stranded abroad. This month is a busy travel period amid the Jewish festival of Passover from April 22 to 30.


El Al canceled several flights from Tel Aviv (TLV)
Photo: Michael Hai | AeroXplorer


In Lebanon, Middle East Airlines postponed most of its flights scheduled to depart from Beirut (BEY) on April 14. The only flights operating will go to Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, and Düsseldorf (DUS).


Iran's Airports and Air Navigation Company announced the cancelation of several domestic flights from Tehran-Mehrabad (THR) and multiple other Iranian airports. Western Iran's airspace is currently closed.


Photo: Lucas Wu | AeroXplorer


Several airlines have rerouted flights going over Iran's airspace, including those not serving destinations in the Middle East. The carriers that changed their routes include the following:


  • Aeroflot: A flight from Moscow to Tehran diverted to Makhachkala (MCX) in Russia's Dagestan region. The carrier said the flight would return to Moscow after refueling. Aeroflot's routes to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were also postponed. 
  • Air India: A flight to London-Heathrow took a longer route on April 13 to avoid Iranian airspace. The carrier later stopped flying over Iran for all flights. What will happen to Air India's route between Delhi (DEL) and Tel Aviv is currently unknown.
  • Etihad Airways: Multiple flights connecting Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Europe and North America will be redirected on April 14. They will now go over Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
  • Flydubai: An airline spokesperson said it will "make any amendments to our schedule accordingly."
  • KLM: Although the airline will continue flying between Amsterdam (AMS) and Tel Aviv, other flights will not go over Israel or Iran.
  • Kuwait Airways: Flights over "the areas of tension" will be diverted. A flight from Kuwait City (KWI) to Istanbul flew over Saudi and Egyptian airspace.
  • Lufthansa: Flights will no longer fly over Israel, Iraq, or Jordan.
  • Malaysia Airlines: Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to London-Heathrow
  • Qantas: Flights from Perth (PER) to London-Heathrow are now making a refueling stop in Singapore (SIN). The return flight will continue to be nonstop. The carrier's other route from London, which serves Singapore, will take a different flight path.
  • Qatar Airways: Several flights from European destinations were diverted to Istanbul on April 13. These flights all continued to Doha (DOH) on April 14.
  • Singapore Airlines: The carrier and its low-cost subsidiary Scoot no longer fly over Iran.
  • Swiss International Air Lines: Flights from India and Singapore will face delays since they cannot fly over Iran, Iraq, or Israel.


Lufthansa uses an Airbus A340 for its Tehran route
Photo: Nicolas Williams | AeroXplorer


As for Iran, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines have suspended flights to and from Tehran-Imam Khomeini (IKA). Both carriers, the only Western airlines to serve Tehran, will no longer fly over Iranian airspace. The Lufthansa Group has also suspended flights to Beirut and Erbil, Iraq (EBL). Lufthansa serves Beirut from Frankfurt and Munich (MUC), while Austrian Airlines flies to Erbil from Vienna (VIE).


Lufthansa said about its flight changes: 


“Due to the current situation, Lufthansa is suspending its flights to and from Tehran up to and including Thursday, 18 April. The airline is no longer using Iranian airspace.”


Photo: Richard Rafalski | AeroXplorer


Meanwhile, Austrian Airlines said:


“For Austrian Airlines, the safety of its passengers and crews has top priority. The situation in the Middle East is being evaluated on an ongoing basis. To this end, Austrian is in close contact with the authorities.”



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George Mwangi
Aviation writer based in Washington, DC. Visited 21 countries on thousands of miles of flights.

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