KLM Resumes Flights Over Iran And Iraq – Should You Be Concerned?

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines announced on Thursday that its aircraft would resume flying over Iraqi and Iranian airspace. This move by the Dutch airline comes after studying the advice given by government ministries and security services.

KLM is overflying Iran and Iraq despite concerns. Photo: KLM

Despite not flying to either Baghdad or Tehran, KLM decided like many other airlines to avoid flying through Iraqi and Iranian airspace. The move came about after heightened military tensions between Iran and the United States.

Iran admitted shooting down flight 752

According to Iran, it was these tensions that caused the downing of a Ukraine International Airlines flight number 752, provoking outrage around the world.

Now, having received assurances from Iran that civilian aircraft are safe to fly through its airspace and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) giving the green light, KLM flights will resume over both countries.

In a notification released on January, 16th, 2020, EASA said that flying over Iran posed no added safety risk providing that aircraft were at an altitude greater than 25,000 feet (7,620 meters).

You can read the KLM press release in its entirety by clicking on the link.

It costs money to fly around certain counties

Despite the perceived risks, the need to fly around or avoid conflict zones needs to be weighed up closely by airlines, as it cuts into their already tight profit margins. By rerouting aircraft to avoid Iran and Iraq, it meant higher fuel costs and longer flight times for many European and Asian long-haul carriers.

For this reason, it is easy to understand why airlines like KLM want to get back to flying over Iran and Iraq as soon as possible, as despite what they say; money is always the driving force. The question now, is should the flying public be worried about flying over these two countries?

My answer to that given the current circumstances is probably yes!

The latest tit-for-tat skirmishes between the United States and Iran are, for now, quiet, but by no means over.

Several planes have been shot down by missiles. Photo: KLM

While the downing of commercial airlines by missiles is rare, you only have to look back to be reminded of how it has happened in the past and how it could happen again.

Back in 1983, Korean Air Lines flight 007 was shot down by a Soviet fighter after being mistaken for an American spy plane.

Five years later the USS Vincennes downed an Iranian airliner after mistaking it for an incoming threat.

In 2001 during a joint Russian/Ukrainian military exercise, Siberia Airlines flight 1812 was shot down by a SAM surface-to-air missile.

More recently and still shrouded in mystery, Russian backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing 298 passengers and crew.

EASA has advised aircraft to fly above 25,000 feet

The altitude advice of greater than 25,000 feet issued by the EASA may be sufficient to avoid shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, but is no match for Iran’s Bavar-373 that can down an aircraft from a much greater height.

MH-17 was at 33,000 feet when it was shot down. Photo: KLM

When Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a Russian Buk surface-to-air missile, it was cruising at 33,000 feet, 1,000 above an exclusion zone issued due to the conflict.

What this shows you is that mistakes can happen.

How, for instance, when on a high state of alert after having just fired missiles on American bases in Iraq could the civilian airport authorities in Tehran allow flights to operate like normal?

Given the current situation in the Middle East, I would feel much safer knowing that my flight was avoiding Iraq and Iran airspace.

How about you? Please let us know what you think in the comments.