Airlines canceling or re-routing flights near Iran

Decision comes after drone shot down

By Charles Riley, CNN Business
Rick Kern/Getty Images for United Airlines

(CNN) - United Airlines has suspended one of its flights and other airlines are re-routing planes to avoid the Gulf of Oman after Iran downed an American drone operating in the area.

A United flight between Newark and Mumbai was suspended starting Thursday, the airline said.

"Given current events in Iran, United has conducted a thorough safety and security review of our India service through Iranian airspace," United said in a statement.

The move to suspend service came as the Federal Aviation Administration banned US airlines from operating planes over parts of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.

The US regulator said in a statement that "heightened military activities and increased political tensions" in the region could "place commercial flights at risk."

Iran shot down a US military drone on Thursday, further escalating tensions in the volatile region. The aircraft was shot down using a medium range air defense missile, according to Iranian state media.

In a notice to airlines, the FAA said that flight tracking applications suggested the nearest civilian aircraft was within 45 miles of the drone when it was targeted.

"There were numerous civil aviation aircraft operating in the area at the time of the intercept," the agency said.

The incident followed an unexplained attack on commercial shipping in the Gulf of Oman last week.

Airlines react

The skies above the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf are frequently traversed by commercial aircraft, and use of the airspace is especially heavy among aircraft bound for Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Airlines that operate flights in the region said Friday that they would adjust their operations.

Emirates, which operates out of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, said in a statement that it had "taken precautionary measures including rerouting all flights away from areas of possible conflict."

The airline said that changes to departure and arrival times had been minimal.

Etihad, which is also based in the United Arab Emirates, said that "contingency plans are in place" and that it would "decide what further action is required after carefully evaluating the FAA directive to US carriers."

Qantas, the flag carrier of Australia, said it was shifting flight paths in the Middle East to avoid the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman. The company said the change would affect flights between London and Australia.

Germany's Lufthansa said it would re-route planes in accordance with the FAA guidance. KLM said it would avoid the Strait of Hormuz.

"The incident with the drone is reason not to fly over the Strait of Hormuz for the time being. This is a precautionary measure," the Dutch airline said in a statement.

British Airways said it was following FAA guidance to avoid the area. It said flights continue to operate using alternative routes.

Chris Liakos and Greg Wallace contributed reporting.

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.