Qatar Airways Now Flying Through Syrian Airspace

Filed Under: Qatar

A vast majority of airlines in the world avoid Syrian airspace. This is due to a combination of many governments prohibiting their airlines from flying through Syrian airspace, and also for safety reasons, given the risk of air strikes.

For example, just last week I flew from Beirut to Dubai on Emirates, and below you can see the moving map, which shows quite a detour to avoid Syrian airspace.

For quite a while the only airlines that have been overflying Syrian airspace are Middle East Airlines and Iraqi Airways. I had written about this situation a while ago, and there are conflicting opinions as to whether these airlines are being reckless, or if they’re just applying common sense, given that their governments don’t prohibit such flights, and the risk is minimal.

Well, you can now add another carrier to the list of airlines that overfly Syrian airspace. As of today (April 26, 2019), Qatar Airways has started overflying Syrian airspace.

Their Beirut to Doha flight is the perfect example of the impact that this has had. Yesterday the flight took 3hr26min to operate.

Meanwhile today the flight took just 2hr26min to operate, so they shaved a full hour off the flight time.

Again, there are going to be differing opinions as to whether Qatar Airways is being reckless or just applying common sense.

One thing is for sure, though. They’re the airline that is dealing with the most airspace issues, given the Gulf blockade, which means they can’t use the airspace of Saudi Arabia, along with other countries.

In the case of a flight out of Beirut, they not only had to avoid Syrian airspace, but actually had to fly north since they also couldn’t use Saudi Arabian airspace. In terms of cost savings, Qatar Airways has the most to save by using Syrian airspace.

That’s not me taking a stance on whether or not they’re being reckless, but rather just pointing out that their Syrian airspace detours have been the most significant.

I think it’s worth passing on the comment that Sean M. left on my previous post about Syrian airspace, given that he’s incredibly knowledgable about this stuff:

The G202/A21 corridor with transition at MODIK to Baghdad FIR or ZELAF/SOKAN to Amman FIR is designated as a safe passage airway for civilian flights in Damascus FIR. Overflight is a non-issue for the most part from a safety perspective.

The reason most airlines are avoiding it is because it could be a violation of EU/US sanctions to pay the navigation fees to a sanctioned entity (as most Syrian government agencies are at this point).

What do you make of Qatar Airways now using Syrian airspace?

(Tip of the hat to @AlexInAir)

Comments
  1. Do they not use Israeli air space either? I assumed they could just overfly Israel, Jordan and Iraq.

  2. Without pretending to be a specialist of the Middle East, it seems obvious even to me that the situation has changed in Syria. Even if the victory of the Asad regime is not the preferred outcome of the West, has improved the safety situation in the Syrian airspace significantly. I would not be surprised to see more airlines returning.

  3. This is bad news for MEA. They had the edge for the shorter trips to the gulf, now Qatar is ruining it for them!

  4. This was in the news few days ago. I’m surprised you brought it up just today.

    Looks more like avoiding Israeli airspace.

    I also thought Syria closed the airspace and they will shoot down anything flying without permission. Not airlines are avoiding because US airstrike.

  5. Makes sense to me. Shorter route. The airliner is going to be at about 35,000 feet or so. Far to high to be “ground striking” anything. In addition, when all the Western powers start leaving Syria alone (it is their country after all), then Syrian airspace will not have hostile planes flying around and any potential threat to the airliner is null.

  6. @Sam
    it is my understanding that no flight to/from Beirut (BEY) /Lebanon are entitled to fly over Israeli airpace

  7. Yeah, you’re flight looks more like a case of avoiding israeli airspace that Syrian airspace, could have been a very minimal detour if they’d just gone through israeli airspace!

  8. @Ron B

    That is incorrect. Present day attack munitions have very high precision. B-2 can do a strike from 50,000 feet.

    Not just bombers, most USAF fighter jets can carry JDAM which can be dropped from 45,000 feet with accuracy of 20 feet from target most of the time.

    So no airliners are safe from mistaken identity at 35,000 feet.

  9. President Trump — the best President the USA has ever had — clearly Tweeted “100 percent Caliphate victory!” and “We just took over 100 percent caliphate” so, yeah, it’s 100 percent safe. Because HE knows!!

  10. So, for the semantic pedants, would that mean a strike on an air target from the ground would be called a “ground strike” ?

  11. I honestly do not like this a bit….

    “Pacified” or not, Syria is a nasty place, with countless factions still at large and weaponized. They just have been “shrunk”.

    The large powers all have, to different degrees, interests for “incidents” to happen or to be prevented. “Incidents” like the shooting of Malaysia MH 17 above Eastern Ukraine by a Russian battery which supposedly was not even there.

    As I am recounting in a book soon to be published, MH 17 was shot upon rogue orders by a Khirgyz officer sold to Chechen and Islamist agendas, who was chiefly looking to create an “incident” pegging Russia and the USA against each other. He succeeded perfectly.

    This exactly what could happen over Syria.

    Actually, I do find this troubling enough to seriously reconsider a flight booked for myself soon between Tunis and Doha. Because of the blockade, QR cannot fly over the Sinai and Saudi Arabia as illustrated in Ben’s showing of the EK flight. The next “most economical” route is over Syria and Iraq.

    I personally do not wish to fly that route and anm evaluating my options.

  12. @Henry Young

    That isn’t a ‘strike’ since it’s obviously a ‘defense’ against aerial threat. It is call anti-aircraft. Air strike and ground strike usually mean the same thing.

    Now if a city is sitting still in the sky and you got a platoon aiming straight up with reverse gravity bombs. Maybe that’s a true ground strike??

  13. Actually, I do find this troubling enough to seriously reconsider a flight booked for myself soon between Tunis and Doha

    Personally I would have more qualms about Tunis airport than Syrian airspace at 35,000 feef

  14. How about JFK-Doha? With the installation of B52s in Doha, will this route become a marquee target?

  15. I just received a flight update from flight centre regarding DOH-BEY-DOH sector time changes. (travelling SYD-DOH-BEY RTN). I accepted immediately…one extra hour in Al Safwa lounge!

  16. Wow, did someone here just gaslight for Russia the MH17? It was shot down by the Russians to scare people out of Ukraine airspace. That is it.

    Anyway, none of the GCC countries fly through Israeli airspace, because they don’t recognize Israeli sovereignty and thus can’t pay navigation charges and accept control orders. The illegal blockade of Qatar means they can’t use Saudi airspace, something that is a Violation of international law by Saudi Arabia and should result in their airlines being barred from all airspace, but alas. Since this is a safe and protected route, QR isn’t really taking a risk.

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