As many as 180 passengers and crew of a Ukrainian Boeing 737-800 have died in a crash in Iran.
Three British people were on board when the Ukraine International Airlines aircraft came down soon after take-off from Imam Khomeini international airport in Tehran.
The 737 was en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev but crashed due to “technical problems,” according to Iranian state TV. This was disputed by the airline which said the aircraft had recently been serviced.
Iata said: “We are deeply saddened by the news of the crash of the Ukraine International Airlines flight shortly after take off from Tehran international airport. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the families and friends of those 180 souls who have lost their lives.”
Ukraine International Airlines suspended flights to Tehran indefinitely and pledged to investigate the cause of the crash.
It is unclear whether the incident is linked to the Iran-US confrontation which saw two airbases housing US troops in Iraq hit by a dozen ballistic missiles from Iran hours earlier.
The attack was in retaliation after the country’s top commander Qasem Soleimani was killed in a drone strike on Friday in Baghdad, on the orders of US president Donald Trump.
Sites in Irbil and Al Asad were targeted but it is unclear if there were any casualties.
The attack prompted the US Federal Aviation Administration to ban US airlines from flying in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, the Gulf of Oman and the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The airspace restriction was issued “due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East, which present an inadvertent risk to US civil aviation operations”.
Several non-US airlines had flights over parts of Iraq and Iran at the time, according to FlightRadar24 data.
While they are not directly affected by the FAA intervention, airlines from other countries and their national regulators typically consider US advice carefully when deciding where to fly.
The FAA had already prohibited US carriers from flying below 26,000ft over Iraq and from flying over an area of Iranian airspace above the Gulf and Gulf of Oman since Iran shot down a high-altitude US drone last June.
Singapore Airlines said after the attack on US bases in Iraq that all of its flights would be diverted from Iranian airspace.
The co-ordination team operated by Iata and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) was activated as a “standard precautionary measure”, in the event that contingency measures are required by airlines, Reuters reported.
Iata reminded countries of their obligation to communicate potential risks to civil aviation.
“It is critical that states live up to this obligation as tensions in the Middle East rise,” the global airlines association said.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its travel advice to Iran today following the missile strike.
“Tensions between Iran and other countries could escalate rapidly. Anger inside Iran is high, following the death of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a US strike in Baghdad on 3 January,” the FCO said.
“If you decide to remain in Iran, you should maintain a low profile, and keep up to date with developments, including via this travel advice.
“You should avoid any rallies, marches, processions, and keep away from military sites. Follow the instructions of the local authorities at all times.”
The FCO added: “There is a risk that British nationals, and a significantly higher risk that British-Iranian dual nationals, could be arbitrarily detained or arrested in Iran. The criminal justice process followed in such cases falls below international standards.
“Iran does not recognise dual nationality. If you are a dual British-Iranian national and are detained in Iran, the FCO’s ability to provide consular support is extremely limited.”
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