Pan-European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol warned airlines to exercise caution in the eastern Mediterranean due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria in next 72 hours as of Tuesday.
Due to the possible launch of airstrikes into Syria with air-to-ground and / or cruise missiles, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken by airlines when planning flight operations in the Eastern Mediterranean, said Eurocontrol.
The major risk is that air-to-ground and cruise missiles could be used within that period and there is a possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment.
US president Donald Trump intensified preparations for a U.S. response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria. Trump said late Monday that the U.S. will respond “forcefully” to a suspected chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime over the weekend, after suggesting earlier that Russian President Vladimir Putin may share responsibility.
Trump on Tuesday canceled a planned trip to Latin America later this week to focus instead on responding to the Syria incident, the White House said.
The Eurocontrol warning on its website did not specify the origin of any potential missile threat.
Aviation regulators in countries including the United States, Britain, 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 0115 GMT on Wednesday were being flown by Syrian Air and Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24. At other periods later in the day there were no flights using the airspace.
Eurocontrol included a broader area outside the airspace controlled by Damascus in its statement.
Some major airlines were re-routing flights on Wednesday. Air France said the airline had changed some flights paths following the warning, including for Beirut and Tel Aviv flights, while budget airline easyJet said it would also re-route flights from Tel Aviv.
Aviation regulators have been stepping up monitoring of conflict zones since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed by a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board.
The Nicosia flight information region named in the Eurocontrol statement covers the island of 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.
Last year, North Korea tested missiles without warning, leading some airlines to re-route flights to avoid portions of the Sea of Japan.