US Warns Commercial Planes Flying Over the Persian Gulf They May Get Shot Down

The U.S. has warned airlines that they may be ‘mis-identified’ flying over the Persian Gulf as well as the Gulf of Oman.

In a Notice to Airmen the US government declares that US air carriers (and operators of US-registered airships, except when operated by foreign air carriers) must exercise caution in the region because of risk of:

  • accidental military targeting
  • GPS interference
  • GPS jamming

Iran Air A300 (Current Livery), Copyright: rebius / 123RF Stock Photo

Carriers are not banned from overflying the area, however, which specifically includes portions of the flight information regions of Tehran, Baghdad, Kuwait, Jeddah, Bahrain, Emirates, and Muscat.

While only applicable to the U.S., notice of issuance of the NOTAM was delivered by U.S. diplomats to Kuwait and the UAE. Specifically they relayed the concern that,

Although Iran likely has no intention to target civil aircraft, the presence of multiple long-range, advanced anti-aircraft-capable weapons in a tense environment poses a possible risk of miscalculation or misidentification, especially during periods of heightened political tension and rhetoric

While the US language suggests possible miscalculation by Iran, Iran is taking the notice as a subtle threat that the U.S. would reprise its 1988 shooting down of Iran Air 655, a grave mistake similar to the Soviet downing of KAL 007.

Iran Air 655, an Airbus A300, flew from Tehran to Bandar Abbas on July 3, 1988. From there it operated a short flight to Dubai. The U.S. had issued a NOTAM that aircraft needed to identify themselves to avoid being shot down. However the plane was flying in Iranian airspace, not international airspace, and was above the proscribed altitude in the US NOTAM.

The civilian aircraft had departed Bandar Abbas, which also housed military F14 aircraft (it’s a whole separate story how Iran came to operate US fighter jets).

The USS Vincennes feared they would come under attack. They attempted to contact the Iranian aircraft but not on air traffic control frequencies, and identifying a plane going much faster than the Iran Air flight. They received no response, fired missiles at the plane, and killed all 274 passengers and 16 crew onboard. In 1996 the US agreed to pay Iran $132 million as a settlement though did not acknowledge wrongdoing.

Emirates, Etihad and Qatar all report their operations are unaffected.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Great, one of the most heavily trafficked / congested air corridors in the world.

  2. Is this another attempt to fire down an aircraft to put the blame on iran and start another war? Trump”s gone nuts. Imaginary “Weapons of mass destruction”, for which one can simply say sorryyears after killing thousands and get away like blair and bush. What now – LHR to BKK via CPT? since pakistan airspace is already shut.

  3. 655 was an act of international terrorism against a civilian aircraft.
    Plain and simple.

  4. This is why USA is the most hated country in the world.

    They should have no right to be telling people what to do in non-US airspace. If there is a risk to commercial aircraft then those ships should be sailing back home.

  5. After reading the anti-American comments above, I thought I would share a funny Monte Python skit, what have the Roman’s Ever Done For Us from Monte Python and the Holy Grail.

  6. Correction: Actually, I realized that “What Have The Roman’s Done For Us” is actually from Monty Python’s Life of Brian

  7. @Other

    As far as the middle East is concerned the Monty Python script could be modified as “what have the iranians ever done for us ” as the Iranians developed all this in the middle east. The Roman and Persian empires were contemporaries who learnt a lot from each other.

  8. @Prabuddha. According to a woman friend, who self-identifies as Persian, the Persians fled the country when President Carter gave the country to Khomeini. To be clear, this woman is now a proud American citizen.

    On a side note, while you are wasting your time trying to come up with anti-American tripe, I am going to buy some delicious Maysara Momtazi Vineyards Oregon Pinot Noir. After several glasses (later on tonight, since it is morning), I won’t care whether the owners are Iranian or Persian.

  9. Well, Iran Air 655 was shot down by the Americans. Whether it was murderous intent or just gross incompetence we don’t really know. Just imagine if the roles were reversed.

  10. @Paolo. Don’t you have something more enjoyable to do with your time. I suggest drinking some Maysara wine.

  11. Call me out of touch, whatever, but I thought there was a difference between an “Empire”, and a bunch of Monster Yobs. No ?

  12. The NOTAM seems like a good idea, as tensions are high and mistakes do happen. Why would it cause such over the top responses in this comments section?

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