Skift Take

The cancellations come as U.S. intelligence reports suggest an attack on Israeli assets by Iran or its proxies could be imminent.

Lufthansa has canceled flights to and from Iran as tensions escalate in the region. However, Skift has discovered that the cancellations aren’t universal, even within the same airline group.

A Lufthansa spokesperson confirmed that all of the airline’s services up to and including this Saturday have been canceled, citing “the situation in the region.”

The German flag carrier usually operates five flights a week from its Frankfurt hub to Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport. 

In contrast, Austrian Airlines has continued its regular program with a flight operating as normal from Vienna on Tuesday. A further departure is due later on Thursday.

An Austrian Airlines spokesperson told Skift that it had no plans to cancel its Tehran flights: “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.”

While Austrian retains its own management team, it operates as a subsidiary of the wider Lufthansa Group. It is unusual for two airlines within the same organization to reach different conclusions to serve a destination.

Why Isn’t Austrian Cancelling Its Flights?

The explanation lies in the logistics of the route. The company told Skift that as a precautionary measure, the usual overnight layover in Tehran will be suspended until April 13.

“Due to the shorter flight time that Austrian has compared to other airlines, it is possible to fly Vienna-Tehran-Vienna without a night stop within the legally permitted working hours of the crew.”

The airline added that Flight OS871 scheduled for today will take place, but will depart from the Austrian capital several hours late to “minimize the time between landing and departure in Tehran”.

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

Analysis of data from Cirium Diio shows the Austrian flag carrier usually flies six times a week to the Iranian capital.

Fears Mount of Iranian Reprisals

President Biden warned on Wednesday that Iran is threatening to launch a “significant attack.” It follows an airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Syria last week.

U.S. intelligence reports suggest an attack on Israeli assets by Iran or its proxies could be imminent, according to the Wall Street Journal

Lufthansa and Austrian are relative outliers in serving the Iranian capital from Europe. British Airways and KLM are among the big names that exited the market in 2018 citing poor commercial conditions

This has left Iran Air – the country’s national airline – to operate the bulk of nonstop routes to and from Europe. It currently serves major cities including London, Paris, and Rome. Indirect options with carriers such as Emirates, Turkish Airlines, and Qatar Airways are also an option.

Airline Security in Focus

Airlines operating in the region are well-versed in making continuous security assessments.

Most international carriers halted all flights to Tel Aviv after the start of the Israel-Gaza war in early October 2023. While many European firms including easyJet and British Airways have resumed services, the situation for U.S. operators is patchier.

United Airlines is currently the only U.S. airline to have returned to Israel. The company restarted flights from Newark to Tel Aviv in early March with a daily service. It said the decision followed “a detailed safety analysis.” 

Delta will resume its nonstop daily service between New York JFK and Tel Aviv from June 7. American Airlines confirmed to Skift that operations to and from Tel Aviv will remain suspended until at least October 26.

Skift has contacted major international airlines operating to Tehran to gauge their assessment of the situation. A flydubai spokesperson confirmed all of its flights to Iran are currently scheduled to operate.

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Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.


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Tags: airlines, airport security, austrian airlines, iran, israel, lufthansa, Lufthansa Group, middle east

Photo credit: Lufthansa/Oliver Roesler Lufthansa/Oliver Roesler

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