Flying Over Warzones: FAA Issues New Restrictions, Airlines Divided Over Iraqi Airspace
By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | August 4, 2014 5:22 PM EST
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has issued new restrictions to American airlines, instructing them to fly over Iraqi airspace at altitudes higher than 30,000 feet, even as other global airlines such as British Airways maintained flying over the wartorn Middle East country remains safe.
An airplane of German air carrier Lufthansa lands at the airline's main hub, the Fraport airport in Frankfurt, March 14 2013. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Citing "the potentially hazardous situation created by armed conflict," the FAA said U.S. airlines are now prohibited from flying over Iraq below 30,000 feet.
The FAA restriction likewise prohibited U.S. carriers from flying in and out of two Iraqi airports, namely the Irbil International and Sulaymaniyah International.
FAA's new directive is a result of the increasing phobia and chaos triggered by the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 which flew over war-torn eastern Ukraine.
Air France had earlier announced it has stopped flying over Iraq, while Deutsche Lufthansa AG said it would put on hold overflights as well as stop operations to the northern city of Erbil. Virgin Atlantic and Emirates have likewise disallowed their planes to fly over the route.
Other international airliners had opted to reroute flights rather than fly over Iraqi airspace, despite officials from the country stating it remains safe to fly over.
One such airline that continues to believe this is British Airways.
"We fly over Iraq because we consider it safe - if we thought Iraq was unsafe we would not fly over Iraq," Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, parent company of BA, said.
Apart from British Airways, Etihad Airways also said it will continue flying commercial passenger jets over Iraq.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline firm maintained evidence has yet to show up that jihadis in Iraq have the capability or intent to target aircraft flying over the country.
The Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was shot by a surface-to-air missile on July 17, which U.S. intelligence said was likely manned by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed.
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