Citing “safety reasons,” an Armenian airline cancelled a regular flight from Yerevan to Tehran that was scheduled for Sunday.
The private carrier, Armenia Airways, announced the decision one day after Iran admitted that its military accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane on January 8, killing all 176 people aboard.
Armenia Airways did not stop flying to and from the Iranian capital in the immediate aftermath of the plane crash which Tehran initially blamed a technical malfunction. By contrast, Iraq’s UR Airlines was quick to cancel its next flight from the northern Iraqi city of Erbil to Yerevan also scheduled for Sunday.
In a statement, Armenia Airways said the Yerevan-Tehran flight is cancelled “due to safety reasons.” “Please accept our sincere apologies for inconvenience caused,” it appealed to ticket holders. “We consider our passengers' safety first.”
The small airline did not say when it might resume the flight service launched by it in June.
Later on Sunday, Armenia’s Civil Aviation Committee said it has advised local airlines to avoid Iranian and Iraqi airspace for the time being given the “new circumstances” of the air disaster. The government agency said such a measure is recommended by the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency.
“We would not have made such a statement if there had been no dangers,” the head of the committee, Tatevik Revazian, told reporters on Monday. “We are closely cooperating with international bodies, and the recommendations that flying over Iran is not a good idea now come from international bodies.”
Revazian stressed at the same that it is ultimately up to Armenia Airways and other local carriers to decide whether to fly to Iran or Iraq.
The January 8 air disaster came hours after Iran targeted two Iraqi bases that house U.S. troops with missiles in response to a January 3 U.S. air strike that killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. That led many experts to suspect Iranian antiaircraft batteries mistook the airliner for a U.S. warplane on a retaliatory mission over Tehran.