x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Airlines warned that Syria strikes could cause disruption 

European air traffic control group urged vigilance over next 72 hours

Airlines have been warned to be extra cautious in light of possible US-led military action in the eastern Mediterranean in the next 72 hours. Ted Aljibe / AFP Photo
Airlines have been warned to be extra cautious in light of possible US-led military action in the eastern Mediterranean in the next 72 hours. Ted Aljibe / AFP Photo

Airlines have been warned to exercise caution in the eastern Mediterranean due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria in the next 72 hours.

The civil aviation advisory notice came as US President Donald Trump and western allies discussed military options to punish Syria's President Bashar Al Assad for a suspected poison gas attack on Saturday on a rebel-held town near Damascus that long had held out against government forces.

The pan-European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol said air-to-ground and cruise missiles could be used, and there was a possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment.

Mr Trump on Tuesday cancelled a planned trip to Latin America later this week to focus instead on responding to the Syria crisis, the White House said. Mr Trump had on Monday warned of a quick, forceful response once responsibility for the Syria attack was established.

"Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken when planning flight operations in the Eastern Mediterranean/Nicosia FIR area," Eurocontrol said, referring to the designated airspace.

_______________

US prepares the ground for possible military action in Syria

_______________

Aviation regulators in countries including the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany have previously issued warnings against airlines entering Syrian airspace leading most carriers to avoid the area.

The only commercial flights above Syria as of 1.15am GMT on Wednesday were being flown by Syrian Air and Lebanon's Middle East Airlines, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

The Eurocontrol statement included a broader area outside the airspace controlled by Damascus.

The Nicosia flight information region named in the Eurocontrol statement on Tuesday covers Cyprus and surrounding waters, according to a map on the agency's website. The same map did not designate any specific territory as being the "Eastern Mediterranean" region.

There has been heightened awareness by regulators and airlines of the risks that conflict zones pose to commercial jets since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

Last year, North Korea tested missiles without warning, leading some airlines to re-route flights to avoid portions of the Sea of Japan.