Two Air India planes flew over Iran airspace a few hours before Israel attack | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Two Air India planes flew over Iran airspace a few hours before Israel attack

ByBinoy Prabhakar
Apr 16, 2024 01:23 PM IST

Spokesman says there were no flying restrictions or alerts from aviation authorities prohibiting flights. Air India rerouted flights later during the weekend.

New Delhi: At least two Air India planes flew through Iran-controlled airspace barely a few hours preceding that country’s massive aerial attack on Israel, potentially putting the lives of several passengers and crew at risk.

Air India flights 116 and 131 flew from New York to Mumbai and from Mumbai to London, respectively, on April 13 and April 14 above the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. (Picture for representational purpose only/REUTERS)
Air India flights 116 and 131 flew from New York to Mumbai and from Mumbai to London, respectively, on April 13 and April 14 above the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. (Picture for representational purpose only/REUTERS)

Air India flights 116 and 131 flew from New York to Mumbai and from Mumbai to London, respectively, on April 13 and April 14 above the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman when the shadow of a conflict between Iran and Israel loomed large, showed data by Flightradar24, a website that tracks flights.

Unlock exclusive access to the latest news on India's general elections, only on the HT App. Download Now! Download Now!

Iran attacked Israel over the weekend, firing at least 300 drones and missiles. Iran’s military assault was expected for days after tensions between the two countries ratcheted up on April 1, when fighter jets struck a building that is part of the Iranian Embassy at Damascus in Syria.

Also Read | Iran attacks Israel: Nuclear watchdog IAEA 'worried' as Army chief vows ‘response'

The Air India planes, a Boeing 777-232 and Boeing 777ER, can accommodate roughly 280 and 330 passengers.

What Air India said

A spokesman for Air India said the airline accords top priority to the safety of its passengers, crew and aircraft. “Our flight operations plan, regardless of airspace, is risk-assessed and we do not make any compromise with safety issues,” he said.

In the two instances that HT.com cited, the spokesman said the airline categorically denied any compromise on safety. “From 13th April 2024, even while the Iranian airspace was available to civilian air traffic without any restrictions or NOTAM and airlines continued operating in that airspace, Air India was closely monitoring the developing the situation in the Middle East in close consultation with various safety organisations and regulatory bodies. As part of our risk assessment some of our west-bound flights were planned on an alternative route along the safe corridor which was also used by other airlines.”

A NOTAM, or notice to airmen, is an alert issued by an aviation authority to pilots about potential hazards along a route or on ground.

To be sure, Air India was not the only airline that passed the Iranian airspace. Airliners such as Malaysia Airlines, Emirates and Qatar Airways flew over Iran airspace on April 13.

Also Read | Middle east tensions trigger anxiety among Iranian students in Pune

Several global airlines began rerouting or cancelling flights on the night between Saturday and Sunday, and on Monday (April 15).

Air India itself rerouted a few flights on April 13 as a precautionary measure. Its 149 and 121 flights from Kochi to the London Gatwick airport and Delhi to Frankfurt took the longer route via Afghanistan.

It is unclear why Air India decided these flights posed a hazard and not the ones that flew through Iran’s airspace.

History full of planes downed in warzones

The history of aviation is replete with instances of civilian aircraft brought down in and near warzones.

As recently as January 2020, a Ukrainian plane, a Boeing 737-800, was blown to pieces in Iran, killing at least 176 people. On July 17, 2014, 298 people were killed when a Malaysia Airlines plane flying to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

Airlines typically fly at altitudes of 35,000 feet deemed safe by aviation authorities, even if the flights are routed over troubled hotspots. But turbulence or a freak incident such as engine failure can cause planes to fly at a lower altitude. The Malaysian Airlines flight was operating at an altitude of 33,000 feet when disaster struck.

Airlines typically take the safety of passengers seriously. Shining examples are the flight disruptions caused during winters due to fog.

Tell us what your First Vote will stand for in a short video & get a chance to be featured on HT’s social media handles. Click here to know more!

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections 2024, Lok Sabha Election 2024 Live, Election 2024 Date, Weather Today along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On