The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Wednesday told airlines to "remain vigilant" amid rising geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran. "In view of the impending tension in the Middle East, all air operators are directed to take appropriate precautionary measures including rerouting of their flights in order to ensure complete safety of passengers," the DGCA said in a directive.
Air India, the major domestic airline flying over Iran for flights to Europe and the US, has decided to reroute flights temporarily. "The safety of our passengers and crew members comes first. In light of the tensions within the Iranian airspace a decision to temporarily reroute flights of Air India and Air India Express overflying Iran has been taken. This may lead to increase in flying time by approximately 20 minutes for flights from Delhi and 30-40 minutes for flights from Mumbai. The situation is being closely monitored," an airline spokesperson said. According to flight-tracking websites, around 30 Air India flights might be affected by this change in flight path.
Tensions between the US and Iran escalated after the US President Donald Trump authorised a drone strike which killed Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, last week. On Tuesday night, Iran launched over a dozen ballistic missiles targeting at least two bases where US military and coalition forces are stationed in Iraq. Trump also reportedly warned that "if Iran does anything that they shouldn't be doing, they are going to be suffering the consequences, and very strongly."
Following Tuesday's events, the US aviation regulator, Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), issued notice to airmen (NOTAM) restricting American carriers from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Flights of airlines flying between the US, Europe and Asia including British Airways, KLM and Air France have been affected by the directive.
India's largest airline by market share IndiGo said its flight to the Gulf region and Turkey remains largely unaffected. "We are monitoring the situation closely and in case of a contingency, there might be slight time changes in our operations, which will be proactively communicated to our passengers through our regular channels," the operator said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the ministry of external affairs has also issued an advisory telling Indian nationals to avoid non-essential travel to Iraq until further notice. "Indian nationals residing in Iraq are advised to be alert and may avoid travel within Iraq," Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson for the ministry, posted on micro-blogging website Twitter.