Airlines face higher fuel bills as they avoid Iran, Iraq amid tensions

Independent aviation consultant John Strickland said longer journey times will throw off schedules and add to flights’ operating costs. (AFP)
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Updated 10 January 2020

Airlines face higher fuel bills as they avoid Iran, Iraq amid tensions

  • Virgin Atlantic Mumbai flight times will be ‘slightly longer than expected’

DUBAI: Airlines are facing higher fuel bills as they reroute flights to avoid airspace over Iran and Iraq due to recent heightened tension between Washington and Tehran, adding further financial pressure to an industry already contending with the prolonged grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX jets.

Germany’s Lufthansa AG, Air France-KLM, Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines have redirected flights from airspace in the region after Iranian forces fired missiles at military bases housing US troops in Iraq. A Ukraine jetliner also crashed in Tehran, although the cause is not yet known.

“Avoiding Iraqi/Iranian air space is a double headache for airlines,” independent aviation consultant John Strickland said by email, noting longer journey times that would throw off schedules and add to operating costs.

Mark Zee, founder of OPSGROUP, which monitors global aerospace for risks that it shares with industry members, said rerouting to avoid Iranian and Iraqi airspace could add around 40 minutes to trips from Europe to Asia.

Australia’s Qantas Airways said such a detour would add 50 minutes to its Perth to London flight time, forcing it to reduce passenger numbers — and therefore revenue — in order to carry more jet fuel.

Virgin Atlantic also said its flight times to and from Mumbai would be “slightly longer than expected.”

Based on data from Flightradar24 and feedback from airline members, Zee said carriers are largely redirecting flights over parts of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has barred US carriers from airspace over Iran, the Gulf of Oman and the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia, citing “heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East.”

Tensions in the region surged after a US drone strike killed a top Iranian military commander in Iraq last week, compounding industry challenges at a time when carriers are already reeling from stiff competition, increased regulations and fallout from the 737 MAX fleet’s global grounding.

In a piece of good news for the industry, oil futures fell nearly 4 percent on Wednesday, retreating from an earlier four-month high, on a de-escalation of rhetoric from Washington and Tehran, and a realization that Iran’s rocket attack did not damage oil facilities.

In December, global airlines reduced their forecast for industry-wide profits in 2019 under the weight of trade tensions, but were expecting a rebound in 2020.

Etihad Airlines, Qatar Airways and Emirates Airline are still using the airspace, which remains open.

“The Gulf carriers in total will have a headache, as they need to pass Iran to get to Europe,” Bernstein analyst Daniel Roeska said, adding that airlines flying from India to Europe would also suffer. 


UK PM raises visas in pitch for post-Brexit trade with Africa

Updated 25 min 57 sec ago

UK PM raises visas in pitch for post-Brexit trade with Africa

  • Boris Johnson told leaders including presidents Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya that he wanted to make Britain their investment partner of choice
  • Boris Johnson: By putting people before passports we will be able to attract the best talent from around the world, wherever they may be

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson told African leaders Monday that Britain would be more open to migrants from their continent after Brexit as he hosted a summit intended to boost trading ties.

He also promised an end to direct UK state investment in thermal coal mining or coal power plants overseas, saying London would focus on supporting a switch to low-carbon energy sources.

Johnson was speaking at the start of the first UK-Africa Investment Summit in London, a clear pitch for business less than two weeks before Britain leaves the European Union.

He told leaders including presidents Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya that he wanted to make Britain their “investment partner of choice.”

After highlighting all that Britain has to offer, he said Brexit would mean an end to preferential treatment for EU migrants.

“Our (immigration) system is becoming fairer and more equal between all our global friends and partners, treating people the same, wherever they come from,” he said.

“By putting people before passports we will be able to attract the best talent from around the world, wherever they may be.”

The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, was also in attendance where he met with leader from Malawi, Mozambique and Morocco.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This morning at the UK-Africa Investment Summit, hosted by the UK Government, The Duke of Sussex met with leaders from Malawi, Mozambique and Morocco - touching on investment in renewable energy, jobs, tourism, and environmental issues. The Duke has been involved in various causes in Africa for over a decade, and has helped to initiate a number of key projects in the region surrounding conservation and tourism, the threat posed by landmines and the HIV/AIDS epedemic. During their recent visit to Southern Africa last September, The Duke and Duchess met with project teams working to encourage youth employment, entrepreneurship, education and health. Through their roles as President and Vice President of The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, The Duke and Duchess have worked to support a growing network of young change-makers across the Commonwealth and will continue to do so, especially in the run up to CHOGM 2020. The Duke of Sussex’s love for Africa is well known - he first visited the continent at the age of thirteen and more than two decades later, the people, culture, wildlife and resilient communities continue to inspire and motivate him every day. Photo © PA

A post shared by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (@sussexroyal) on

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who also attended the summit, said Brexit offered an opportunity for increased free trade across the Commonwealth — and said visas were a key issue.

“While many in the African diaspora enjoy considerable benefits from life in the West, they do not always feel at the heart of the community,” he wrote in an article for The Times on Monday.

“A renewed sense that there are ties that bind us through the Commonwealth, and a concerted effort to grow those links through trade, could act as a spur to encourage togetherness and the certainty of belonging.”

Johnson, whose country hosts the next UN climate change summit in Glasgow later this year, also announced a shift in investment strategy to help combat global warming.

Sub-Saharan African faces a number of environmental challenges, particularly the effects of climate change, water and air pollution, desertification, deforestation and over-fishing.

On fossil fuels, Johnson said: “There’s no point in the UK reducing the amount of coal we burn, if we then trundle over to Africa and line our pockets by encouraging African states to use more of it, is there?“

“We all breathe the same air, we live beneath the same sky. We all suffer when carbon emissions rise and the planet warns.”

He added: “Not another penny of UK taxpayers money will be directly invested in digging up coal or burning it for electricity.

“Instead, we’re going to focus on supporting the transition to lower and zero carbon alternatives.”

The British government’s export agency reports providing £2 billion ($2.6 billion) in financing for UK company exports to Africa in the past two years. The agency says it now wants to “increase its risk appetite” in Egypt and the emerging economies in Nigeria and Rwanda.

The UK government said the London summit will see British and African firms announce commercial deals worth £6.5 billion.

It did not spell out whether these were all firm commitments or included memorandums of understanding that do not always result in actual deals.

Britain will leave the EU on January 31, although ties will remain the same for 11 months while the two sides thrash out a new trading relationship.

The UK has said it will be leaving the bloc’s single market and customs union.

Johnson wants the freedom to strike trade deals with other countries, even at the expense of some of its producers facing trade tariffs and quotas as a result.