Airline trade group monitoring Middle East tensions

Royal Jordanian airliner on approach

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is monitoring the situation in the Middle East and calling on governments to communicate any potential threats to civil aviation. IATA represents 290 airlines that account for more than 80% of global air traffic.

Tensions in the region have been running higher than usual since a U.S. drone strike early Jan. 3 in Baghdad killed Iran’s top military commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iran has repeatedly threatened retaliation.

On Tuesday an IATA spokesman said that countries that are members of the United Nations-affiliated International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) “are required to communicate potential risks to civil aviation, including in times of conflict. It is critical that states live up to this obligation as tensions in the Middle East rise.” Currently, 193 countries are listed as ICAO members, including both Iran and Iraq.

IATA said airlines are in continuous communication with government, safety and security agencies, which enables carriers to make the risk assessments necessary to support complex global operations. “These assessments guide airlines in adjusting operations to keep travelers safe,” the spokesperson said.

To aid in communication and coordination, the IATA and ICAO MID Region Contingency Coordination Team has been activated as a precautionary measure, IATA said. The team is a joint effort between IATA and the 15 countries that comprise the ICAO Middle East region. The ICAO MID Region office is located in Cairo.

On Monday the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said, “We continue to coordinate with our national security partners and share information with U.S. air carriers and foreign civil aviation authorities. The FAA will take actions as necessary to ensure the safety of U.S. civil aviation operations worldwide.”

So far, Royal Jordanian and Bahrain’s Gulf Air have suspended service to Baghdad.