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Qatar Airways insists Iran airspace safe, flights to continue

Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Airways Akbar al-Baker speaks during a press conference in Doha on October 22, 2019. (AFP photo)

Qatar Airways says it has had no problem using the Iranian airspace amid heightened military tensions between Iran and United States in recent days, insisting that the airspace, currently avoided by a few number of flights, is completely safe.

The Doha-based carrier said on Wednesday that it has not lost any bookings during a recent military standoff between Iran and the US which even led to the downing of a Ukrainian airliner last week near the Iranian capital Tehran.

Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said that flights by the company to Iran will continue despite moves to the contrary by several other airlines.

The announcement came amid unconfirmed media reports suggesting that a Qatar Airways flight from Tehran to Doha “miraculously” escaped Iranian air defenses shooting in early hours of January 8, when a Boeing 737-800 operated by Ukraine International Airlines was accidentally shot down after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport.

All 176 people on board the plane, most of them people returning to Canada via Kiev after spending winter holidays in Iran, were killed in the crash.

Iranian military has accepted full responsibility for the incident which came hours after Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at two military bases in neighboring Iraq that were occupied by US military forces.

The attacks were aimed to respond to US assassination in early January of Iran’s top overseas military commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

Qatar Airways has rerouted many of its flights through the Iranian airspace since it was banned from flying over several Arab countries in the Persian Gulf in June 2017 when a political standoff erupted between Qatar and a grouping of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia.

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