Middle East Tensions Prompt Air India and Other flights to Avoid Iranian Airspace

the Ministry of External Affairs had also “advised” all Indian nationals traveling abroad in the near future, to not travel to the two countries that are on the brink of an impending  war, Iran, and Israel, till further notice…

Amidst the escalating tensions in the Middle East, several airlines including Air India, opted out of flying over Iranian Airspace, according to the report by the Times of India. The report stated that an Air India flight, AI 161, which departed from Delhi at 4:30 AM did not fly over Iran’s airspace instead, it took an alternate route to London. This was followed after several of the Western airlines flying to India also avoided overflying the Iranian airspace. This rerouting of flights has increased the travel time between India and the countries in the West.

Nonetheless, other flights from Air India like the flight from Delhi to Tel Aviv operated as scheduled on Saturday, and the airline is closely monitoring the situation at the destination to make real-time decisions about the continuation of the four-times-weekly service. Following the attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, Air India had temporarily suspended the Delhi-Tel Aviv flight. It resumed operations on March 3, 2024, after a hiatus of nearly five months. Sources indicate that Air India will assess the regional situation before determining the fate of this route.

Previously, the Ministry of External Affairs had also “advised” all Indian nationals traveling abroad in the near future, to not travel to the two countries that are on the brink of an impending
war, Iran, and Israel, till further notice.

On Friday, Israel found itself preparing for a potential strike from Iran or its allies, amidst escalating warnings of retaliation. The tensions had surged following an attack on Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus the previous week, resulting in the death of a high-ranking commander from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force along with six other officers.

Despite the lack of a formal claim, Israel was suspected of carrying out the airstrike on April 1st. In response, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a stern declaration that Israel would face consequences for what he deemed as an assault on Iranian territory.

While talking to the White House reporters after a virtual speech to a civil rights conference about the looming threat of soaring tensions in the region, US President Joe Biden remarked that he expects Iran to retaliate and attack Israel “sooner than later” after its consulate in Syria was attacked recently. He further said that he would not divulge secure information.

To mitigate the looming threat, the US swiftly deployed warships to strategic positions, aiming to safeguard both Israel and American interests in the region. The Wall Street Journal reported that this maneuver was aimed at preempting a direct assault by Iran on Israel, which could materialize as early as the upcoming Friday or Saturday.

These precautionary measures by the US were part of a broader strategy to prevent a full-scale conflict in the volatile Middle East. The decision was influenced by intelligence provided by a source familiar with the situation, who had warned about the probable timing and location of the anticipated Iranian strike.

However, despite the ominous signs, another source, purportedly briefed by Iranian authorities, indicated that while discussions regarding an attack were underway, a final decision had yet to be reached. This uncertainty added another layer of complexity to an already tense situation.