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I recently flew from Abu Dhabi to Beirut and I was intrigued by the flight route. Instead of simply avoiding Syrian airspace (as would be expected) and flying across KSA, Jordan and Israel, we flew almost to Alexandria in Egypt before hanging a big right and approaching Beirut from over the Mediterranean.

enter image description here
Source: FlightAware, text added

Before the Syrian war the flight used to take 3.5 hours, now it's more like 5 hours. Can someone explain to me why the flight took this route? Is it because Sinai is now considered a no-go zone? If so why not fly over Israel? Is this because it's not allowed?

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  • $\begingroup$ @falstro no, there is no suggestion that that flight was shot down. The bomb was onboard. $\endgroup$ – Ben Jul 9 '16 at 11:11
  • $\begingroup$ @falstro I am very sorry for your dad... $\endgroup$ – anshabhi Jul 9 '16 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ @falstro: Maybe the OP could tell us what was the flight number, so that I can insert the right map. There is a FAA alert (recommendation) related to this region, only the north part, and below FL260. This alert has been relayed by EASA and other agencies. The flight shown gets round the affected area. $\endgroup$ – mins Jul 10 '16 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ FYI- The flight in the image passed directly over the Sinai Peninsula, while avoiding Jordan and Israel, so overflying Sinai is not the issue. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jul 10 '16 at 17:59
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It's for political reasons.The flight is clearly avoiding Syria and Israel. To fly a direct route between the two you must overfly either Syria or Israel.

Looking at the flight paths from the last week or so of the two airlines that service that route and it becomes very clear. The flight in question is (as it would appear from flight paths) Etihad Airways, the flag carrier for Abu Dhabi. All flights between the two from Etihad take this same circuitous route. The reason is that they can't fly over Syria or Israel. The UAE (of which Abu Dhabi is a part of) does not recognize Israel as a state. Israeli citizens are not even allowed in the UAE. Etihad does not serve Israel nor are Israelis allowed to fly on it. Many Arab states do not allow El Al to overly them so it's a safe bet Etihad is not allowed to overly Israel's territory.

In the past that would just mean flying over Syria instead. But Abu Dhabi is a member of the Arab League which has invoked sanctions against Syria. This would make it risky to fly over Syria and is most likely prohibited by the sanctions. So their only option is to go the long way around.

On the other hand, the Lebanese carrier Middle East Airlines/Air Liban also serves this route. Although Lebanon is a member of the Arab League, Lebanon refused to be party to the sanctions on Syria. Due to this they are still able to fly over Syrian airspace, so they have a much more direct route.

enter image description here

And it would appear that Etihad is still avoiding flying over northern Sinai since the Metrojet 9268 crash.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answers, both are excellent and more than answer my question. TomMcW, thanks for the info on MEA, I was curious as to why it continues to fly over Syria and now I know! It was an EY flight I was on by the way, I assume EK flights take the same route. $\endgroup$ – Billy Jul 10 '16 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Billy Yep, just looked. Emirates takes the same circuitous route. $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Jul 10 '16 at 17:41
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Since most Arab countries (those who don't recognize Israel) don't allow Israeli-registered aircraft in their airspace, Israel does the same and don't allow those Arab countries-registered aircraft in its airspace.

For the same reason, every El Al flight from Israel to India/East Asia has to either fly up north (over Turkey and Kazakhstan) or down south (Gulf of Aden) before heading east.

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    $\begingroup$ References to NOTAMs or other authoritative documents describing the restrictions would be helpful. $\endgroup$ – mins Jul 9 '16 at 11:58

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