With reporting by Victoria Scott
Qatar Airways has joined other Gulf and European carriers in re-routing flights to avoid Egypt’s Sinai peninsula after a Russian jet crashed on Saturday, killing more than 200 passengers and crew on board.
In a statement to Doha News, a spokesman for Qatar’s national carrier said:
“Out of an abundance of caution, Qatar Airways will re-route flights to avoid the Sinai Peninsula airspace until more information is known regarding the tragic loss of Metrojet on 31 October 2015.”
The airline did not give details of which destinations will be affected or how the new routes will affect flight times for passengers. However, it is likely that cities in the immediate region such as Beirut and Larnaca in southern Cyprus may be affected.
Other airlines based in the region, including Emirates, Fly Dubai and Air Arabia, as well as some European carriers have all stopped flying over the Sinai while an investigation into the incident is ongoing, Bloomberg newswire said.
Just 23 minutes after leaving Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh resort on the Red Sea, the St Petersburg-bound Airbus A321-200 passenger jet had reached a cruising altitude of 31,000 feet, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry, when it suddenly plummeted into a remote area of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.
According to tracking website Flightradar24, the aircraft changed speed and altitude in its final moments of flight. All 224 passengers and crew on board died.
Debris from the flight 7K9268 has been found spread over a wide area of the ground, indicating that the aircraft broke up mid-air, and investigators are now trying to discover why this happened, Bloomberg reports.
A former safety engineer with Boeing told AP that when planes break up in mid-air it’s usually due to one of three factors: a catastrophic weather event, a mid-air collision or an external threat, such as a bomb or a missile.
Todd Curtis said that if there are no indication that such events played a role in the crash, investigators will be looking at more unusual events, such as an on-board fire or corrosion that caused a structural failure, the news wire added.
This isn’t the first time that Qatar Airways has changed flight routes for some destinations following international incidents.
Last August the airline said it would reroute some flights to avoid Iraqi airspace. The decision came as the US Federal Aviation Authority bans its airlines from flying over Iraq while the US conducts airstrikes against artillery targets belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq (ISIS).
It also followed the crash of a Malaysia Airlines airplane that had been flying over conflict-ridden eastern Ukraine.