Doha, Qatar - Gulf-based airline operators continue to fly over Iraq and Iran airspace. They also fly to cities in both countries, although other international airlines have rerouted their planes due to the heightened military tension between the United States and Iran.
The airports in the Gulf states are major transit stops between European and Asian destinations. Airlines operating from those airports don't have much alternative routes, analysts say.
On Jan. 8, Iran’s air defense units accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane mistaken for a cruise missile.
Gulf operators such as Qatar Airways and Emirates have grown significantly in recent decades despite the regional conflicts.
Rerouting the flights is increasing operating costs of the airlines due to additional fuel consumption. Gulf-based carriers claim that they take every precaution to keep their flights safe.
Iranian airspace is important for all carriers in this region,
said Adil al-Ghaith, Emirates’ senior vice president, commercial operations, Gulf, Middle East, and Iran.
Emirates and its low-cost subsidiary flydubai fly to ten cities in Iran and Iraq and use the airspace of both countries for their flights to Europe.
Qatar Airways, Kuwait Airways, and Etihad Airways also continue using Iranian and Iraqi airspace.
We will continue to fly to Iran because Iran is an important country to us and it is our neighbor and we want to serve the people of Iran,
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said.
Qatar has strengthened its economic ties with Iran since 2017 after neighboring countries Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states cut the diplomatic relations with Doha and closed their airspace to Qatari planes.
Qatar started to use Iranian airspace more to bypass other gulf states.