Airlines in Europe and Asia have began re-routing their operations between the two regions following escalating tensions in the Middle East, further narrowing Asia-Europe flight options and raising operating costs. 

On 13 April, Iran launched a series of drone and missile attacks on Israel in retaliation over what it claimed was an Israel strike on its diplomatic building in Syria on 1 April. 

Concerns over possible reprisals – as well as widening conflict in the region – have led to airspace closures. Israel on 13 April shut its airspace in the wake of the attacks, only reopening them on 07:30 local time on 14 April. 

Screenshot 2024-04-15 at 12.08.57 PM

Source: Screengrab via FlightRadar24

Flight tracking data shows most flights largely avoiding the Iranian space, re-routing instead through Central Asia, or Saudi airspace.

National carrier El Al suspended a series of scheduled flights to Europe, Dubai and Moscow on 14 April, and it was yet unclear if these cancellations would carry on into the week. 

Iran has also imposed airspace restrictions, while other Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon and Iraq temporarily closed their airspace following the attacks. 

The series of closures have forced a flurry of schedule changes to avoid the affected airspace, which is frequently used by carriers operating flights between Europe and South, as well as Southeast Asia. This has led to additional flying time, with flight time now extended by as much as an hour on some routes. 

Singapore Airlines, for instance, has re-routed flights to Europe to avoid Iranian airspace. Where flights would usually fly over Iran, flight tracking data now shows flights to be routed northwards to fly over parts of Central Asia into Europe. That has resulted in additional flying time between the two regions. 

Malaysia Airlines has taken similar steps for flights between Kuala Lumpur and London - its sole European point - opting to fly south of Iran over Saudi airspace on 13 April, then re-routing northwards into Central Asia a day later. 

Qantas, meanwhile, has adjusted its non-stop flights from Perth to London, adding a temporary refuelling stop in Singapore to account for the re-routing. 

Indian carriers such as Air India and Vistara have confirmed their flights would avoid Iranian airspace, with Air India also suspending flights to Tel Aviv. 

Apart from flight adjustments to Asia, European carriers have also suspended operations to several Middle East points. 

Lufthansa Group says it will be cancelling flights to Tel Aviv, Erbil and Amman up to 15 April, while operations to Beirut and Tehran will be suspended until “at least” 18 April. 

“The Lufthansa Group had already decided on Friday, 12 April, to fly around Iranian airspace up to and including Thursday, 18 April, and thus temporarily suspend flights to Tehran,” it adds. 

The latest disruptions are the latest in a series of challenges facing Asia-Europe operations. Airlines were forced to avoid Russian airspace following the war in Ukraine, a move that particularly impacted operations to North Asia.