US fines Virgin Atlantic $1.05m for flying over Iraq

Federal Aviation Administration issued notice prohibiting US airlines from flying through Iraqi airspace without prior approval

The investigation found Virgin Atlantic flew 'a significant number' of flights that breached the ban between September 2020 and September 2021. PA
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

The US Transportation Department said on Tuesday that it had fined Virgin Atlantic $1.05 million for flying in restricted airspace over Iraq on numerous occasions.

The department has jurisdiction since the flights carried Delta Air Lines code.

The Federal Aviation Administration had issued a notice prohibiting US airlines from flying through Iraqi airspace without prior approval.

The investigation found Virgin Atlantic flew “a significant number” of flights that breached the ban between September 2020 and September 2021, the department said. It added that the airline was ordered to cease future breaches.

Virgin Atlantic said on Tuesday that “as soon as we were made aware of this compliance issue by the DOT, our code share flight routings were immediately corrected”.

The department notified the airline of the offence in September 2021 for flights between London and India that flew over Iraq. At the time, other foreign governments permitted flying through Iraqi airspace at high altitudes, with numerous flights daily.

Virgin Atlantic must pay $525,000 in three instalments, while the remaining $525,000 is payable only if Virgin Atlantic violates the order’s cease and desist or payment provisions.

In March 2020, the FAA issued a notice barring flight operations at all altitudes due to “heightened militia activities and increased tension in Iraq”.

The US transport department said Virgin Atlantic had told the agency the “prohibited overflights were inadvertent, caused by operational disruptions and loss of personnel due to the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Virgin Atlantic told the department that upon notification by the US government, “it immediately rerouted flights to avoid the airspace in question and informed its board and senior leadership of the issue”.

Virgin Atlantic also noted that it had invested in Sentinel by Osprey, an automated tool that “dynamically alerts airlines at the flight planning stage or operational stage, of any regulatory restrictions impacting their, or their codeshare partners’ flights”.

Updated: January 17, 2023, 4:45 PM
EDITOR'S PICKS