US airlines, including freighter operators, have been banned from flying over certain areas of the Middle East in light of the recent military action in the region and heightened political tension.
The US Federal Aviation Administration last week issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) prohibiting US aircraft and pilots from flying in airspace in Iran, Iraq (Baghdad airspace region), the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
In response, US cargo carriers have been filing requests for exemptions to the notice, outlining the steps they have taken to mitigate risks and stating that they believe they can operate safely in the region.
Atlas Air Worldwide-owned Polar Air Cargo and Atlas Air requested that they be allowed to continue flying over the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf on their flights to Bahrain and Qatar, while sister airline Southern Air said it would like to continue flights over the gulfs for services heading to airports in Bahrain.
The carriers said they would operate with a buffer to the areas of conflict, inform the FAA on a daily basis of planned operations, disseminate FAA updates to its security teams and flight crews and continue to monitor the region.
Kalitta Air requested permission to fly over the gulfs for services to Bahrain in order to continue flying for DHL and the US Military, outlining the steps it had taken to ensure the safety of flights.
Omni Air also requested permission to continue flying for the Department of Defense in the gulfs for its services to Qatar, Oman and the UAE .
“Omni believes we can conduct our operations safely as the plan assures the flight operates as closely to the Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi land-masses as the published airways will allow,” the carrier said.
Finally, FedEx also requested exemption but did not disclose further information on security grounds.
Exemptions to the rule include US-registered aircraft operated on behalf of a foreign air carrier and pilots flying for a foreign carrier.
The ban comes after Iran said it had “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian passenger aircraft in the aftermath of airstrikes carried out by the country against US air bases in Iraq.
All 176 people on-board the B737 lost their lives in the incident.
The attack had been carried out after a US drone strike on January 3 had killed senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.