Following the assassination of Qassem Soleimani near the Baghdad Airport in Iraq on 3 January 2020 the security of the city and the airport remains in question. As a result some commercial airlines made the decision to halt flights. The impact thus far is limited, but could shift as other airlines assess the implications.
Airlines suspending Baghdad (BGW/ORBI) flights
Gulf Air was the first carrier to announce suspension of flights to Baghdad on Friday. It also suspended service to the nearby city of Najaf. The carrier issued a statement regarding the change and citing safety and security concerns as the cause for the move:
Gulf Air, the National Carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, would like to inform its passengers that all flights arriving and departing from Baghdad and Najaf in the Republic of Iraq have been suspended until further notice, due to the safety and security situation in Iraq…
Royal Jordanian also suspended flights, but only to Baghdad. Its service to Najaf, as well as to Basra, Erbil/Arbil, and Sulaymaniyah continue to operate as scheduled. The carrier’s schedule includes 18 weekly flights that are canceled effective immediately.
Airlines still operating to Baghdad (BGW)
A number of foreign airlines operate into Baghdad and continue their services. They include:
- Air Arabia – Flights to Sharjah (SHJ)
- Andolujet – Flights to Istanbul (SAW)
- Atlas Global – Flights to Istanbul (IST)
- Azerbaijan Airlines – Flights to Baku (GYD)
- Caspian Airlines – Flights to Tehran (IKA) and Mashhad (MHD)
- Cham Wings Airlines – Flights to Damascus (DAM)
- EgyptAir – Flights to Cairo (CAI)
- Emirates – Flights to Dubai (DXB)
- FlyDubai – Flights to Dubai (DXB)
- Flynas – Flights to Medina (MED)
- Iran Air – Flights to Tehran (IKA)
- MEA – Flights to Beirut (BEY)
- Nile Air – Flights to Cairo (CAI)
- Pegasus Airlines – Flights to Istanbul (SAW)
- Qatar Airways – Flights to Doha (DOH)
- Silk Way Airlines – Flights to Baku (GYD)
- Turkish Airlines – Flights to Istanbul (IST) and freighters to ISL
Domestic operators at Baghdad include Iraqi Airways, Fly Baghdad and UR Airlines. None of the three appear to be halting services.
Overflights of Iraq and Iran
With tensions in the region running high there is also some concern that overflights of the countries may adjust or be cut. But, for now, little appears to be changing. OPSGROUP, an independent aggregator of government operational warnings, currently has Iraq and Iran airspace in its “Level 2” warning. This suggests caution is required but operations remain feasible. No governments have issued updated warnings for travel over either country yet, though both have had specific limits in place since at least mid-2019. The OPSGROUP warnings include these statements:
The aviation security picture in the Middle East, already fragile and unstable, is now unpredictable. Anything that looks like a US asset or ally could be a target – military or civil. US operators, at a minimum, should be avoiding the Tehran FIR, and considering security carefully when operating in other countries in the region, most notably Israel, Lebanon, and Kuwait – as a response may target airports in those countries or foreign aircraft.
A response by Iran to the US airstrike of Jan 3rd looks unavoidable… As to the Iranian response, anything that looks like a US asset or ally could be a target – military or civil. US operators, at a minimum, should be avoiding the Tehran FIR, and considering security carefully when operating in other countries in the region, most notably Israel, Lebanon, and Kuwait – as a response may target airports in those countries or foreign aircraft. That said, it’s a guessing game right now, and predicting the specifics of a response is extremely difficult.