Two of Europe's leading airlines said on Saturday that they would avoid flying over Egypt's Sinai region as a precaution after a Russian commercial jet crashed earlier in the day, killing all 224 people aboard.
Lufthansa of Germany and Air France said they would reroute flights over the region until the circumstances of the accident were established, a sign that airlines have become a lot more cautious in recent years about flying over regions involved in conflicts.
Many airlines already avoid several countries in the Middle East, including much of Iraq and Syria. But the industry's perception of risk changed dramatically after a commercial airliner, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, was shot down by a Russian-made missile while cruising over eastern Ukraine last year.
Rerouting a flight generally means taking a longer route, which adds flying time, fuel and costs. But the attack on Flight 17 prompted the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations' aviation body, and the International Air Transport Association, the airline industry trade group, to review policies and look for ways to share information more promptly about conflict zones.
Officials said it was too soon to determine what happened to the Russian charter flight, an Airbus A321-200 with 217 passengers and seven crew members onboard. It was flying to St. Petersburg from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
The plane disappeared from radar screens about 25 minutes after it took off.
But adding to the immediate confusion, an Islamist group operating in the region for years issued a claim of responsibility several hours after the crash.
An armed insurgency pitting government troops and Islamist forces in Egypt's Sinai has escalated recently.
Early last year, Islamist rebels shot down a government helicopter with a surface-to-air missile. The attack raised concerns about the growing availability of sophisticated weaponry that became available after the chaotic collapse of Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Libya.