Iran’s attack on Israel disrupts global airline operations

Global airlines experienced significant disruptions on Monday after Iran launched a missile and drone attack on Israel, complicating the already challenging navigation routes between Europe and Asia. The assault involved over 300 missiles and drones, the majority of which were intercepted by Israel’s U.S.-backed missile defense system.

The aviation industry chaos led to at least a dozen airlines, including Qantas, Germany’s Lufthansa, United Airlines, and Air India, canceling or rerouting flights over the past two days. This incident marks the most substantial single disruption to air travel since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, noted Mark Zee, founder of OPSGROUP.

Zee explained, “Not since the 9/11 attacks have we seen so many different airspaces close in such rapid succession, creating significant operational challenges.” He added that the disruptions might persist for several more days.

The conflict has exacerbated difficulties for an industry still grappling with restrictions stemming from the ongoing disputes between Israel and Hamas, and between Russia and Ukraine. With Iran’s airspace typically used by flights connecting Europe and Asia, carriers now face limited alternatives, routing either through Turkey or via Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Following the closure of its airspace on Saturday, Israel reopened it on Sunday morning. Similarly, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon have also resumed flights over their territories.

Major Middle Eastern carriers such as Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Etihad Airways announced on Sunday that they would resume regional operations after canceling or altering some routes.

While it remains uncertain how the latest turmoil will affect passenger demand, which has been strong despite the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, Brendan Sobie, an independent aviation analyst, remains cautiously optimistic. “If the political situation and conflicts continue to escalate, concerns about travel might eventually dampen demand, but we have not seen that impact yet,” Sobie stated.