Etihad to change flight paths in Persian Gulf

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad announced its decision after Emirates and FlyDubai similarly changed their flight paths.

21 June 2019 | 18:18

Source: Associated Press

  • Source: Associated Press
  • Last update: 21 June 2019 | 18:18

In this Oct. 24, 2018, photo released by the U.S. Air Force, members of the 7th Reconnaissance Squadron prepare to launch an RQ-4 Global Hawk at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON: The long-haul carrier Etihad said it has “agreed to change a number of the flight paths we operate to and from” the Persian Gulf after Iran shot down a U.S. military drone.

Etihad made the statement Friday night. It said it would offer passengers more details on its website about their flights.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad announced its decision after Emirates and FlyDubai similarly changed their flight paths.

The shooting down of the U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk has escalated already heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Major international airlines said they have rerouted their flights to avoid the area after the Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning to pilots early Friday.

President Donald Trump said the U.S. was “cocked and loaded” to retaliate against Iran for downing an American drone, but canceled the strikes 10 minutes before they were to be carried out after being told some 150 people could die.

Trump tweeted Friday that the U.S. was ready to “retaliate last night on 3 different sights when asked, how many will die.” He said a general told him 150 people, and he canceled the strikes as “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”

Trump tweeted that the U.S. will never allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. But he said he’s in no hurry to respond to the downing of the U.S. surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz.

He said U.S. sanctions are crippling the Iranian economy and that more are being added.

The head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division said a manned U.S. spy plane was near the drone it shot down but Iran chose not to target it.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh made the comment Friday at a news conference attended by The Associated Press in Tehran.

The Guard shot down a U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk on Thursday.

Hajizadeh said: “At the same moment, another spy aircraft called a P8 was flying close to this drone. That aircraft is manned and has around 35 crew members. Well, we could have targeted that plane, it was our right to do so, and yes it was American, but we didn’t do it. We hit the unmanned aircraft.”

The U.S. military’s Central Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Vatican cardinal is begging the U.S. and Iran to step back from escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf, calling instead for political friendship.

In a tweet Friday, Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson wrote: “On our knees, let’s pray USA & IRAN do not unsheathe the weapons of war!” He followed it by tweeting: “Let nations cultivate political friendship and not mutual demonization. The former builds peace, the latter kills it.”

Tensions have been heightened after Iran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. said it made plans for limited strikes on Iran in response, but then called them off.

Turkson heads the Holy See’s development and migrant department, and long headed the Vatican office of justice and peace.

European Council President Donald Tusk is denying that the EU has been too passive in its response to rising tensions between the United States and Iran.

After chairing a summit of EU leaders in Brussels Friday, Tusk said that “sometimes it’s better not to intervene. The biggest problems in our history (were) always provoked by too active politics, not too passive.”

Tusk said the leaders “follow the situation closely and are very concerned about the developments in the Gulf region.”

But he said there was “no reason to prepare a specific European statement on this” at the summit.

The EU is urging restraint on both sides and the bloc’s top diplomat is in regular contact with the two. The EU is struggling to uphold the Iran nuclear deal, which is at risk of collapse due to U.S. sanctions.

Indian officials said their navy has deployed two warships to the Gulf of Oman amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Indian navy spokesman Dalip Kumar Sharma said the ships Chennai and Sunayna have deployed to the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman to undertake maritime security operations, escort Indian merchant ships and “coordinate between stakeholders.”

Indian military aircraft are also conducting aerial surveillance in the area.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reached out to foreign leaders to convince them that the apparent attacks on the key Mideast shipping route is a problem for the world at large. Iran is India’s third-largest source of imported oil. Pompeo is visiting India next Tuesday, ahead of G20 talks in Osaka, Japan.

The long-haul carrier Emirates, based in Dubai near the Strait of Hormuz, said it is “rerouting all flights away from areas of possible conflict” after Iran shot down a U.S. military drone.

Emirates made the announcement in a statement on Friday.

It added: “We are carefully monitoring the ongoing developments and are in close contact with the relevant government authorities with regards to our flight operations, and will make further operational changes if the need arises.”

Emirates is a government-owned airline. It’s low-cost sister carrier FlyDubai said it has also “adjusted” some of its flight paths.

Major international airlines said they have rerouted their flights to avoid the area after the Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning to pilots early Friday.

Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines are joining other airlines in rerouting flights away from the Strait of Hormuz area.

Singapore Airlines said on Friday that some of its flights will take “slightly longer routings” to avoid the area because of the ongoing tensions. It said the safety of its customers was its top priority and that it continuously reviews the areas that it overflies.

Malaysia Airlines said it has rerouted its flights to and from London, Jeddah and Medina because “safety is of utmost importance.” It said it is closely monitoring the situation and will be guided by various assessments, including security reports and advice from airspace control authorities.

British Airways, Australia’s Qantas and Dutch carrier KLM earlier announced they will reroute flights away from the Strait of Hormuz as well.

German Chancellor Angel Merkel said European countries are still hoping that there can be a political solution to the tensions between the United States and Iran.

Merkel told reporters in Brussels on Friday that European governments’ foreign policy advisers had met on the sidelines of a European Council meeting to discuss the tensions in the region.

She said “naturally we are worried about the situation and we’re counting on diplomatic negotiations for a political solution to a very tense situation.”

Merkel did not elaborate further on her comments.


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