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. 


Excavation begins at historic Dakar market in renovation project

Updated 04 August 2020

Excavation begins at historic Dakar market in renovation project

DAKAR: Heavy-duty excavators have begun to raze the famed Sandaga market, a sprawling hub of informal trade in the heart of Senegal’s capital Dakar, which the authorities want to rebuild and modernize.

The great hall, built in the Sudanese-Sahel tradition in 1933, has housed hundreds of stalls selling merchandise of all kinds, from food to craft goods. It was closed in 2013 for public safety after the edifice was weakened by several fires.

Under the watchful eyes of city and state authorities, three heavy diggers on Sunday evening began to destroy dozens of makeshift shops that had proliferated at the foot of the hall.

Police deployed in force to keep onlookers well clear of the work.

The machines threw up thick clouds of dust while they smashed market stalls and tipped loads of rubble, beams and corrugated iron into dump trucks.

The traders, whose stands overflowed into neighboring streets, had shut up shop and packed their things after a final deadline from President Macky Sall.

Many stallholders “are in the process of setting up shop at the racecourse,” in a less central part of town, Dakar-Plateau Mayor Alioune Ndoye said. Authorities have laid out 500 stalls there for use by vendors while the renovation takes place.

Shopkeepers voiced opposition over the relocation last month, telling the government that they would lose customers at the new site far from Sandaga, a curiosity for tourists which drew large crowds.

An iconic establishment lying between the old French colonial quarter and more working-class districts, Sandaga has been one of Dakar’s main trading centers for almost a century.

“It wasn’t holding up and so we decided to level it, to build an identical site while modernizing it and adding an underground car park,” Ndoye said.

Frequented daily by residents of the capital, the market also drew people from the provinces and from the West African region. Many tourists came to hunt down artisanal carvings and other artifacts.

“Sandaga cannot continue in its current state of insecurity, the irregular occupation of the public highway and insanitary conditions,” said Minister of Urban Affairs Abdou Karim Fofana, who attended the demolition on Sunday.

“If there are problems, firefighters can’t even reach the middle. The day there is a catastrophe, people would ask where the authorities were,” Fofana recently warned.

Boubacar Dieng, a 47-year-old baker, watched the ballet of the excavating machines with a benevolent gaze from his front door, just opposite the market.

“This is good. There’s no problem, because it had become filthy, not pretty,” he told AFP. “And then there was the risk of aggression by bandits who occupied the abandoned building.”