Major airspace disruptions across Middle East over Iran-Israel conflict

Multiple countries across the Middle East were forced to temporarily close their airspace over the weekend after Iran launched drone and missile attacks against Israel on Saturday night.

The attacks, which Iran said were retaliation for an Israeli airstrike in Syria on April 1 that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guards personnel, prompted Israel to shut down its airspace from around 11:30 PM local time on April 13 until 7:30 AM on April 14.

This led to significant flight cancellations and diversions by Israeli airlines like El Al and Arkia, as well as disruptions for foreign carriers operating flights to and from Israel. Some flights managed to depart during the closure, including El Al services to major European cities.

Neighboring countries Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon also closed their respective airspaces briefly late on April 13 citing operational reasons and regional tensions, before reopening on April 14 morning once the threat had passed.

Jordan had readied air defenses over concerns Iranian drones or missiles could violate its airspace, according to regional security sources cited by Reuters.

Reports suggest U.S. and British warplanes assisted in shooting down some Israel-bound drones over the Iraq-Syria border area.

While Israeli airspace has reopened, travelers are advised to check their flight schedules before heading to Ben Gurion International Airport as disruptions are expected.

Flag carrier El Al has resumed operations and is working to stabilize its flight schedule. The airline had previously canceled 15 flights to Europe, Dubai, and Moscow and was forced to turn back flights from Bangkok and Phuket.

Arkia, another Israeli airline, is also adjusting its flight schedule after postponing flights to Athens, Milan, and Geneva.

Many flights from foreign carriers experienced delays, including those from Wizz Air, Air India, Iberia, and Air France. However, several flights, including those operated by El Al and Ethiopian Airlines, were able to depart as scheduled.

The impact of the attacks extended beyond Israel, with airlines like Etihad Airways and Swiss International Air Lines canceling flights to and from Tel Aviv. Swiss, owned by Lufthansa, rerouted its planes to avoid the airspaces of Iran, Iraq, and Israel, leading to delays on flights from India and Singapore.

Aviation authorities continue monitoring the situation closely. Travelers are advised to check flight status with airlines before proceeding to airports in the region over the next few days.

The attacks underscore the potential for spillover effects on civilian air travel from geopolitical conflicts in the volatile Middle East region.

Source: Reuters, ch-aviation

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