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Russian Airlines Continue Flying Through Iranian Airspace

Aeroflot completed a round trip from Moscow to Tehran hours after other airlines canceled or diverted flights. hans-johnson / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Russian airlines are continuing to operate flights to Tehran and fly over Iranian airspace following the crash of a Boeing 737 Ukrainian International Airlines flight Wednesday that killed 176 passengers and crew.

Russia’s national airline Aeroflot completed a round trip from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport to the Iranian capital just hours after a handful of other international airlines canceled or diverted flights to avoid Iranian and Iraqi airspace.

Data from FlightRadar 24 shows Aeroflot flight SU512 from Moscow to Tehran departed from Moscow on schedule at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday, landed in Tehran early Thursday morning and returned to Moscow as planned.

Russian flights to Dubai, which fly for more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) over Iranian airspace, also continued following the crash, which came as Iran launched a dozen missile strikes on U.S. and coalition military bases in Iraq in response to the American killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Aeroflot operated three flights from Moscow to Dubai Wednesday, while the airline’s low-cost subsidiary Pobeda also flew to Dubai across Iranian airspace as scheduled. Regional airline S7 operated a regular flight from Russia’s third largest city Novosibirsk to Dubai, also across Iran, flight data shows. Aeroflot did reroute a Wednesday night flight from Moscow to the Maldives to avoid Iran.

Flights between Moscow and Dubai Thursday were also continuing to fly across Iranian airspace as normal. Airline representatives told Russian daily Kommersant they had prepared alternative flight plans avoiding Iran which can be implemented if necessary. 

Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency Wednesday recommended Russian airlines avoid airspace around the region, but fell short of issuing a blanket ban on Russian airlines operating flights in the region, stressing that the ultimate decision over flight routes is taken by individual carriers.

Aeroflot did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. regulators have banned American airlines from flying over Iraq, Iran, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and other major airlines including Air France, Air Canada, KLM, Lufthansa, and Qantas have confirmed they are avoiding parts of the region.

Government ministers and Russia’s transport and tourism agencies are scheduled to meet Friday, Kommersant reported, to discuss the situation and potentially take further measures regarding the operation of Russian flights around the region.

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