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Air Canada reroutes flights over Middle East following Iran crash that killed 63 Canadians

Air Canada has rerouted its flights over the Middle East after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed in Iran killing all on board.

Iranian officials told The Canadian Press they suspected a mechanical issue brought down the 3 1/2-year-old Boeing 737-800 jet, which crashed shortly after takeoff at Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran.

Sixty-three Canadians were among those killed in the crash.

Transport Canada tweeted that Air Canada is the only Canadian carrier operating in the region.

“Air Canada.. has altered its routes to ensure the security of its flights into and over the Middle East,” the department tweeted January 8.

The Canadian airline has already rerouted a flight from Toronto to Dubai through Egypt and Saudi Arabia to avoid travelling over Iraq.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it was barring American pilots and carriers from flying in areas of Iraqi, Iranian and some Persian Gulf airspace.

The flight restrictions reflected fears that the conflict between the U.S. and Iran could ratchet up, following Iranian ballistic missile strikes Tuesday on two Iraqi bases that house U.S. troops.

Those strikes were retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike near Baghdad last week.

At least 500 commercial flights travel through Iranian and Iraqi airspace daily, Dubai-based aviation consult Mark Martin told The Canadian Press.

A raft of European airlines have also changed routes to bypass Iranian airspace.

The Russian aviation agency, Rosaviatsia, issued an official recommendation for all Russian airlines to avoid flying over Iran, Iraq, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman “due to existing risks for the safety of international civil flights.”

Australian carrier Qantas said it was altering its London to Perth, Australia, route to avoid Iranian and Iraqi airspace until further notice.

Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines flights are also rerouted to avoid Iran.

India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation advised Indian commercial carriers to avoid Iranian, Iraqi and Persian Gulf airspace.

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