Due to tension in Middle East, DGCA asks airlines to reroute flights to ensure passenger safety

New Delhi, Jan 8 (PTI) Hours after a Ukrainian plane with 176 people on-board crashed near Tehran in Iran, aviation regulator DGCA on Wednesday asked Indian airlines to take all precautions in the airspace over Iran, Iraq, Gulf of Oman and waters of the Persian Gulf, and reroute their flights to ensure safety of passengers.

The security situation in the Middle East region is also tense because of Iran's missile strikes against two US military bases in Iraq on Wednesday. The missile strikes were in retaliation to the killing of top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani by the United States on January 3.

A senior official of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said on Wednesday evening, 'In view of the impending tension in the Middle East, all air operators are directed to take appropriate precautionary measures including rerouting of their flights in order to ensure complete safety of passengers.' Therefore, Air India announced on Wednesday that it is temporarily rerouting its flights and that of its subsidiary Air India Express which use Iranian airspace.

US Federal Aviation Adminstration has also asked all American airlines to stop operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman due to 'events in Middle East'.

Qassem Biniaz, spokesperson for Iran's Road and Transportation Authority, said one of the engines of the Boeing 737 aircraft, which had 167 passengers and nine crew members, of the Ukranian International airlines was struck by fire immediately after take off, causing the plane to crash.

IndiGo does not operate any flights over Iranian and Iraqi airspace, hence it does not expect its flights to the Middle-East or Turkey to be impacted.

'The routes to Gulf operate through Oman, Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf, while the routes to Turkey fly over the northern routes over the Caspian sea and head directly from there to Istanbul. Currently, our flights are operating as per normal schedule,' IndiGo said in a statement.

'We are monitoring the situation closely and in case of a contingency, there might be slight time changes in our operations, which will be proactively communicated to our passengers through our regular channels,' it added Flight crew of the PS752 flight - which crashed on Wednesday morning near Tehran - of Ukranian International Airlines (UIA) comprised of three pilots: Captain Volodymyr Gaponenko (11600 hours on Boeing 737aircraft including 5500 hours as captain); Instructor pilot Oleksiy Naumkin (12000 hours on Boeing 737 aircraft including 6600 hours as captain); First officer Serhii Khomenko (7600 hours on Boeing 737 aircraft). 'Tehran airport is anything but a simple one. Therefore, for several years UIA has been using this airport to conduct training on Boeing 737 aircraft aimed at evaluating pilots' proficiency and ability to act in emergency cases,' noted Ihor Sosnovsky, Vice President, Operations, UIA 'According to our records, the aircraft ascended as high as 2400 meters. Given the crew's experience, error probability is minimal. We do not even consider such a chance,' it added.

The Indian government has issued a travel advisory, asking citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Iraq in view of the prevailing situation in the Gulf country.

'In view of the prevailing situation in Iraq, Indian nationals are advised to avoid all non-essential travel to Iraq until further notification,' the advisory by the Ministry of External Affairs said.

It said Indian nationals residing in Iraq are advised to be alert and may avoid travel within Iraq. PTI DSP DSP RDM RDM