European authorities have warned airlines flying over the Middle East to beware of long-range cruise missiles that Russia is firing into Syria from warships in the Caspian Sea. Cathay Pacific has suspended flights over Iran and the Caspian Sea after the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) warning.
The cruise missiles typically fly at supersonic or close to supersonic speed, but fly very low, so are unlikely to collide with a plane. Even so, Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Air France have all reportedly made changes to their procedure after the warning from EASA, with Cathay suspending all flights over the area.
“In view of the situation in the region, Cathay Pacific suspended all flights over Iran and Caspian Sea since last Thursday until further notice,” the airline said in a statement.
Qantas, however, says there is nothing to suggest any increased risk to its flights to London. The Australian quoted chief executive Alan Joyce noting that EASA had outlined the issues but had not made a recommendation.
Joyce said that if a problem did emerge, Qantas would stop flying through the airspace.
“But the information that we have, it is safe to do so,” he told the paper.
The Transport Workers Union has now weighed into the debate.
“It is not up to Qantas to determine if the risk posed is an acceptable one,” TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said.
“We have this information about missiles entering the airspace. Passengers are putting their faith in the airline and Qantas must be able to guarantee their safety. If Qantas are not prepared to heed this warning then I urge the Government to step in and compel them to do so.”
Russia is using cruise missiles to blast ISIS and other fighters in Syria, firing the missiles from ships in its Caspian Sea fleet. It did so last week and may do so again.
“EASA was informed from public sources of several launches of missiles from warships, located in the Caspian Sea, to Syria on 06 and 07 October 2015,” the Eruopean agency’s warning states.
“Before reaching Syria, such missiles are necessarily crossing the airspace above Caspian Sea, Iran and Iraq, below flight routes which are used by commercial transport aeroplanes.”
“Air France has already said it will alter its routes as a result,” Sheldon said.
“A day after the release of a report into the shooting down of MH17 with the loss of 283 passengers and 15 crew, the last thing anyone wants is to see a repeat of this appalling event.
“We are therefore appealing to Qantas to act immediately and heed these warnings.”
Written by Peter Needham