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Iran’s attack on Israel adds to global airlines woes in Mideast

International carriers faced flight disruptions on Monday as Iran’s missile and drone attacks on Israel further narrowed alternative options for planes navigating between Europe and Asia.

Iran’s retaliation on Israel with more than 300 missiles and drones, which were mostly shot down by Israel’s U.S.-backed missile defense system, caused chaos in the aviation industry.

Over the last two days, at least a dozen airlines have had to cancel or reroute flights, including Australia’s Qantas, Germany’s Lufthansa, United Airlines and Air India.

This was the biggest single disruption to air travel since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, according to Mark Zee, founder of OPSGROUP, which monitors airspace and airports.

“Not since then have we had a situation with that many different air spaces closed down in that quick succession, and that creates chaos,” Zee told Reuters, adding that disruptions were likely to last a couple more days.

The latest routing problems are a blow to an industry already facing a host of restrictions due to Israel’s attacks on Gaza and the Russia-Ukraine war.

Iran’s airspace is used by airlines traveling between Europe and Asia and those carriers will be restricted to two viable alternative routes, either through Türkiye or via Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Zee said.

Israel closed its airspace on Saturday before reopening them on Sunday morning. Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon also resumed flights over their territories.

Major Middle Eastern airlines, including Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, said on Sunday they would resume operations in the region after canceling or rerouting some flights.

It was not yet clear if the latest unrest would impact passenger demand, which has remained robust despite ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, said Brendan Sobie, an independent aviation analyst.

“If the political situation and the conflicts continue to escalate, then at some point, people will be concerned about traveling, but so far that hasn’t happened,” Sobie said.

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