Most Gulf carriers re-route flights over Sinai after Russian crash

By Nadia Saleem DUBAI (Reuters) - Most Gulf airlines said on Sunday they were re-routing flights to avoid Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, where a Russian aircraft carrying 224 passengers crashed on Saturday. Carriers from United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait said they would re-route flights as a security precaution until there was more clarity. Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways said it would continue to fly over Sinai but avoid certain areas on the advice of Egyptian authorities. Air traffic in the region has been on alert since a militant group linked to Islamic State in Egypt said it had brought down the plane "in response to Russian air strikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land". A Russian aviation official said the aircraft had broken up in mid-air but it was too early to draw any conclusions. The Russian plane crashed on Saturday into a mountainous area of central Sinai. On Saturday, German carrier Lufthansa and Air France-KLM said they had decided to avoid flying over the peninsula while they waited for clarity on what caused the crash. Qatar Airways, budget carrier Jazeera Airways from Kuwait and Bahrain's Gulf Air said late on Sunday that they would avoid flying over the peninsula, according to separate statements emailed to Reuters. "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," the Doha-based airline said. Earlier in the day, Emirates, flydubai and Air Arabia, all from the United Arab Emirates, confirmed taking the same security precautions. Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways said it continues to fly over the Sinai region but is avoiding airspace over some of its areas in accordance with instructions by the Egyptian authorities. This would impact "a handful" of its flights, it said in a statement. Re-routing usually means longer flying distances, which add to fuel costs. British budget carrier easyJet said it was taking advice from all relevant authorities and was continuing to "actively review" the situation. It said that it, like other British airlines, did not overfly central and northern Sinai on the advice of Britain's Department of Transport. "Based on the information received to date, easyJet plans to continue to operate flights to Egypt to carry holidaymakers as planned to and from Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada but will continue to actively review the situation," it said in a statement. British Airways said in a statement that it did not discuss flight routes, "however we would never fly a route unless it was safe to do so". (This version of the story has been refiled to fix spelling in second paragraph) (Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Stanley Carvalho; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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