Yesterday a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 flying from Tehran to Kiev crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 people onboard. US and other intelligence officials are claiming that the plane was shot down by Iran, and there’s even now alleged video footage of the incident.
With the theory of the plane having been shot down now widely accepted by authorities around the world, it looks like some airlines are starting to take action, as we’ve already seen two airlines divert while enroute to Tehran today.
Austrian & Lufthansa divert their Tehran flights
Lufthansa flight 600 was operated by an Airbus A330-300 bound from Frankfurt to Tehran today, and the plane turned around about two hours into the flight, and flew back to Frankfurt. The airline has also canceled their flight for tomorrow.
Austrian flight 871 was operated by an Airbus A320 bound from Vienna to Tehran today, and the plane diverted to Sofia, Bulgaria. The airline has also canceled their flight for tomorrow.
In both cases these diversions came as the airlines learned about the seemingly reputable theory that Iran shot down the plane. I wonder how exactly the crews handled communicating with the passengers in this situation. I doubt they explained what they knew to passengers, so presumably passengers were left to read between the lines.
What are other airlines doing?
Ukraine International Airlines immediately suspended the Kiev to Tehran route after the accident.
A majority of the remaining airlines flying to Iran are from the Gulf region, and they’re continuing to operate flights as usual.
As far as other European and Asian airlines flying to Tehran go:
- Aeroflot operated their last flight from Moscow on Wednesday, and the next flight is scheduled for Friday, and it shows operating as usual for the time being
- Turkish operates up to five daily flights between Istanbul and Tehran, and for the time being it appears that flights are still operating as usual, though we have seen some cancelations in the past couple of days (though before this revelation a few hours ago)
- China Southern canceled their flight from Urumqi to Tehran yesterday
It will be interesting to see how this situation unfolds. On the one hand, obviously people still need to fly in & out of Iran at the moment. At the same time, airlines have to prioritize the safety of their crews and passengers.
What excuse do airlines have for not canceling flights?
I guess to think of this a bit differently:
- The prevailing belief is that the plane was shot down
- If that’s the case, it’s far from certain that it was intentional/targeted (after all, the flight had more Iranians onboard than any other nationality)
So it’s most likely that a commercial plane was shot down by mistake shortly after takeoff.
With that in mind, what’s the logic for airlines not canceling their flights to Tehran at the moment?
- Do they not believe that the plane was shot down?
- Do they think that it has happened once, and therefore it can’t happen again?
- Do they think it’s worth the risk to continue to operate flights?
Unfortunately Gulf carriers in particular have a habit of not heeding warnings from international safety organizations… I’ll be curious to see if this situation is the same.
What do you think is the appropriate action for airlines to take here?