Lufthansa suspends flights to Tehran citing rising security concerns in region 

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German airline Lufthansa has announced that it is suspending all flights between Frankfurt and Tehran following an increase in tensions sweeping across the Middle East region. The suspension comes following several days when the carrier has been monitoring the situation but with an escalation in the rhetoric between the Iranian Government and the West, the airline has decided to suspend all flights until further notice.   

As of September 2023, Lufthansa increased the frequency of flights between Frankfurt (FRA) and Tehran (THR) by offering daily flights operated on Airbus A330 or A340 equipment. The airline offers a three-class service on the route with a flying time of around five hours.  

“We are constantly monitoring the situation in the Middle East and are in close contact with the authorities,” said a Lufthansa statement. “The safety of our guests and crew members is Lufthansa’s top priority.”  

The announcement comes after United States President Joe Biden stated on April 10, 2024, that America’s support for Israel was “ironclad” following threats made by officials in Tehran to retaliate in response to an Israeli air strike on the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus.  

Following the air strike, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Al Khamenei issued a warning stating there would be a “powerful response” to the attack. Furthermore, various news sites linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of the Iranian military responsible for training proxy militias in the region, have publicized bold statements claiming the possession of weapons that can strike targets in Israel. 

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It is well known that Iran holds a significant arsenal of anti-aircraft missiles. One of these was used in January 2020 when a Boeing 737 of Ukraine International Airlines was shot down as it took off from Tehran Airport – an act for which the IRGC claimed responsibility. Authorities in Tehran later stated that the downing of the Ukrainian aircraft was a “disastrous mistake” made by IRGC troops on “high alert”. 

Lufthansa and its subsidiary Austrian Airlines are the only two Western carriers operating international flights to Tehran, which is predominantly served by Turkish and Middle Eastern-based airlines. 

Austrian Airlines, which is owned by Lufthansa, operates a direct Vienna (VIE) to Tehran service six times per week. The carrier’s flight is scheduled for April 11, 2024 is still due to operate at the time of writing according to the airline’s own website. However, with a scheduled departure time of 13:20 already delayed to 18:35, it wouldn’t be too hasty to assume that this flight could also possibly be canceled.  

Lufthansa is the first airline to cancel flights to Tehran amid the recent rise in geopolitical tensions. There was no immediate word from other international airlines that fly to Tehran. These include China Southern Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Iberia, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Oman Air, Aeroflot, Pegasus Airlines, flydubai, LATAM Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Iraqi Airways, Iran Air, and Iran Aseman Airlines.  

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The decision by Lufthansa to suspend Tehran operations comes after the US State Department issued a warning of an imminent attack by Iran on Israel. General Erik Kurilla, commander of the US Central Command, is expected to meet Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and senior Israel Defense Forces officials on April 11, 2024, in Israel. 

Israeli news reports have stated that the country is preparing for a possible direct attack from Iranian soil using ballistic missiles, drones, and cruise missiles against Israeli targets. The deteriorating security situation comes during the ongoing Eid holidays which are underway across the Islamic world. 

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