Israeli flyers timorous as Middle Eastern carriers keep their routes over Iran
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Israeli flyers timorous as Middle Eastern carriers keep their routes over Iran

Many in the Jewish state fly to East Asia via Istanbul or Amman with airlines that haven’t rerouted flights since downing of Ukrainian plane

A Turkish Airlines flight seen at the airstrip at Ben Gurion International Airport. February 26, 2015. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
A Turkish Airlines flight seen at the airstrip at Ben Gurion International Airport. February 26, 2015. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Israelis are increasingly expressing worries about flights that pass through Iranian airspace, a travel agency executive said Sunday, as warnings are ramping up around the globe after a Ukrainian airliner was shot down by a missile near Tehran, killing all the 176 people on board.

Commercial airlines have been rerouting flights throughout the Middle East to avoid potential danger during heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, following the US killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard general Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike near Baghdad and the subsequent downing of the Ukrainian plane by an Iranian air defense missile system that had allegedly mistaken it for a cruise missile.

Flights to and from Israel and by Israeli airlines never fly over Iran or other countries in the region that don’t recognize the Jewish state.

However, many Israelis travel to destinations around the world via Turkish Airlines — which is particularly popular — as well as Royal Jordanian, which both fly to Tel Aviv. Neither airline has rerouted its flights around Iranian or Iraqi airspace, nor have most Gulf-based airlines, which often fly Israelis.

“Over the last few days, since the incident with the Ukrainian plane, more and more Israelis are beginning to ask questions about the flight route,” Meital Lahat, vice president of marketing at flight price comparison website Travelist, told the Kan public broadcaster.

In this photo from January 8, 2020 photo, rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

“They are interested in whether they pass through Arab countries, and specifically whether they pass over Iran,” she said.

Lahat added that prices for flights between the Middle East and East Asia that fly over Iran and Arab countries are currently 30-50 percent cheaper than normal as a result of global concern.

Channel 13 reported Sunday that Israelis were canceling reservations for flights that go over Iran.

On would-be passenger who planned to fly to East Asia with Turkish Airlines in April told the station that he was dismayed the airline had not warned him about keeping its flight route, and canceled his trip because of it.

“I think its a grave danger to fly over countries that are hostile to Israel, especially now, when the situation is tense,” he told the station.

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