Skip to main content

Lufthansa extends Tehran flights ban as Iran-Israel tensions flare

The Middle East remains on high alert after a suspected Israeli airstrike killed seven senior Iranian commanders in Damascus April 1.
Lufthansa aircraft parked in front of a hangar during a nationwide strike of Lufthansa ground employees, Frankfurt Airport, March 7, 2024.

Germany's flagship airline on Thursday extended its suspension of flights to Tehran amid escalating security concerns in the Middle East driven by an anticipated attack from Iran in response to suspected Israeli airstrike on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus.

Lufthansa had said on Wednesday that “due to the current situation in the Middle East,” it had suspended flights, probably until Thursday, to and from the Iranian capital. On Thursday, however, it extended the suspension, at least until Saturday. 

A spokesperson said the airline had decided last weekend not to operate a flight from Frankfurt to Tehran to avoid a crew having to spend the night in the Iranian capital.

Al-Monitor has contacted Lufthansa for comment.

On April 1, the Iranian Consulate in Damascus was hit by a suspected Israeli airstrike that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said left seven of its military advisers dead, among them Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in the Quds Force, the elite foreign paramilitary and espionage arm of the IRGC.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reiterated on Wednesday that Israel “must and shall be punished” for the attack. Officials in the region and the United States have been on high alert since the consulate attack in anticipation of Tehran's response. In turn, the Israeli government has vowed to respond if Iran attacks Israeli territory from Iranian soil. Tehran also has the option of retaliating through its proxies elsewhere in the region.

The state-backed Iranian news agency Mehr published an Arabic report on the X platform late Wednesday stating that the airspace over Tehran had been closed for military drills and citing Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad-Reza Gharaei Ashtiani. Shortly after posting the report, the agency removed it and denied having released the information.

Austrian to fly Tehran route

Austrian Airlines, part of the Lufthansa Group, said it was going ahead with its planned flight from Vienna to Tehran on Thursday. 

An Austrian Airlines spokesperson told Al-Monitor, “Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines have come to the same safety assessment of the situation on the ground. The Austrian Airlines flight planned for today will take place.”

Explaining Austrian's position in light of Lufthansa's suspension of flights, the spokesperson said that the overnight layover in Tehran for the airline's crew would be suspended as “a precautionary measure” until Saturday, April 13.

“The Vienna-Tehran-Vienna route will be operated without an overnight layover until then,” the spokesperson said. “Due to the shorter flight time that Austrian has compared to other airlines from Vienna to Tehran, it is possible to fly Vienna-Tehran-Vienna without a night stop within the legally permitted working hours of the crew.”

The Austrian representative added that the Tehran flight from Vienna on Thursday will be pushed back several hours to minimize the time between landing in and departing from Tehran.

“The safety of our passengers and crews is our top priority,” the spokesperson said. “The security situation on the ground is monitored around the clock, and the flight program is adapted if necessary.”

Other airlines — among them Emirates, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines — have flight routes via Tehran. Al-Monitor has contacted them for an update.

Russian urging ‘restraint’

Russia on Thursday urged Middle Eastern states to show restraint in the current situation and warned against travel to the region.

“Right now it's very important for everyone to maintain restraint so as not to lead to a complete destabilization of the situation in the region, which doesn't exactly shine with stability and predictability,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said at a press conference. 

“We call on all countries in the region to exercise restraint.”