United Airlines suspends Newark-Mumbai flights over concerns about Iran’s airspace

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Following the downing of the United States military drone on Thursday by Iran, United Airlines said it has suspended flights from Newark to Mumbai due to safety reasons.

“Given current events in Iran, we have conducted a thorough safety and security review of our India service through Iranian airspace and decided to suspend our service between EWR and BOM,” United said on its website, referring to the airports.

A spokesman for the United Airlines said customers flying from Mumbai to Newark would be booked on alternative flights back to the United States.

“We continue to explore all our options and remain in close contact with relevant government authorities in order to provide our customers with the most efficient travel experience under these circumstances,” he said.

The downing of the RQ-4A Global Hawk drone, which can fly at up to 60,000 ft (18,300 m), was the latest of a series of incidents in the Gulf region amid escalating tensions between the U.S and Iran.

According to OPSGROUP, which provides flight tracking data and safety guidance to air operators, data showed that commercial aircraft were flying very close to the unpiloted  unarmed  Global Hawk at the time it was shot down.

“The threat of a civil aircraft shootdown in southern Iran is real,” OPSGROUP said. “Avoiding the Strait of Hormuz area is recommended – misidentification of aircraft is possible.”

In May, the U.S Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had advised airlines to exercise caution in flying over Iran and nearby areas, due to heightened military activities and increased political tension. They said;

“Although Iran likely has no intention to target civil aircraft, the presence of multiple long-range, advanced anti-aircraft capable weapons in a tense environment poses a possible risk of miscalculation or misidentification, especially during periods of heightened political tension and rhetoric.”

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