London: Global airlines are drawing up emergency plans to re-route planes and absorb higher fuel costs in the event of a military attack on Syria. Major carriers including Emirates, the world’s biggest airline by international passenger traffic, rival Gulf carrier Etihad and British Airways are on alert as the United States threatens a potential strike on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s regime. A number of long-haul airlines fly through or close to Syrian air space to service other major destinations worldwide and link to key air traffic hubs in Europe such as Heathrow. Tim Clark, president of Emirates and one of the industry’s most experienced figures, told The Sunday Telegraph that “contingency plans will be in place should anything happen” in Syria. Those plans could potentially involve re-routing aircraft away from the area, Clark said, although he stressed operations will continue “as normal” unless there is a serious deterioration in the situation. “We are always in a state of preparedness for anything like this and the operations group of the company will have all of this on watch; contingency plans will be in place should anything happen,” Clark said. The Emirates president has had experience of managing the airline through multiple regional conflicts including both Gulf wars. He said that measures may involve shifting flights away from Syrian air space in the event of a military strike. “If that does happens we will take any measures that we have to, to circumvent the areas.”

No-fly zone

A spokesman for Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, said: “We have drawn up robust flight re-routing contingency plans in the event of any airspace being closed to commercial aircraft.” British Airways said that it would be affected if the country’s airspace and surrounding areas become a no-fly zone. “We are keeping our operations under review and we would make any changes that would be necessary,” a spokesman for BA said. Airlines also face a threat from a potential spike in the oil price as a result of the growing tensions in the Middle East. John Strickland, a London-based aviation analyst at JLS Consulting, said passengers should expect disruptions to travel plans if a conflict breaks out in the region. “We shouldn’t magnify it out of proportion but what we have seen from other wars or military actions in the Gulf is flight routings may need to change,” said Strickland. “That can disrupt schedules of course because if you’re having to follow more secure routings you’re not able to run to your normal schedule and that directly feeds through to airlines having to burn more fuel.”