KUWAIT (Dispatches) -- Qatar Airways, Emirates and several other Persian Gulf airlines still fly in Iraqi and Iranian airspace and to cities in both countries, even as some carriers have rerouted planes since the United States and Iran traded military strikes.
Executives and analysts said carriers in the Persian Gulf, a major transit stop between European and Asian destinations, have few alternative routes to choose from.
Persian Gulf carriers have grown into major airlines even as regional tensions in recent decades erupted into conflict. Rerouting flights hurts profits, they say, although they also insist that they take every precaution to keep passengers safe.
"Iranian airspace is important for all carriers in this region,” said Adil al-Ghaith, Emirates’ senior vice president for commercial operations in the Persian Gulf, Middle East and Iran.
Dubai-based Emirates and sister carrier flydubai together serve 10 cities in Iran and Iraq, and have continued to use the airspace of both countries for other flights.
Kuwait Airways and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways have continued using Iranian and Iraqi airspace.
"We will continue to fly to Iran because Iran is an important country to us and it is our neighbor and we want to serve the people of Iran,” Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said on the sidelines of a Kuwait air show.
Qatar has forged closer economic ties with Iran since 2017 when neighboring Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states cut relations with Doha in a diplomatic row.
The Qatari state carrier turned to Iranian airspace to keep its network that flies through its Doha hub operating.
Some carriers have reportedly rerouted flights to avoid Iraq and Iran, including Lufthansa, Air France, Singapore Airlines and Qantas.
Among the regional carriers, only Bahrain’s Gulf Air has redirected European flights away from Iraqi airspace and now flies longer, more fuel consuming routes over Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The UAE regulator told its carriers — Emirates, Etihad, flydubai and Air Arabia AIRA.DU — this month to "evaluate flight path risks” although it said it was up to the airlines to make the final decision on the routes they chose.