Emirates to suspend flights over Iraq

The changes follow concerns over the dangers posed by Islamic militants and were announced by the airline’s chief executive, Sir Tim Clark, in an interview with the UK’s The Times newspaper.

Emirates will suspend flying over Iraq, re-routing flights to Europe via Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran.

The changes follow concerns over the dangers posed by Islamic militants and were announced by the airline’s chief executive, Sir Tim Clark, in an interview with the UK’s The Times newspaper.

The new measures come in as investigators are still working to understand what caused the loss of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine. The plane, carrying 298 people, was hit by a missile with Ukraine pointing the finger at pro-Russian separatists.

Sir Clark was quoted by The Times as saying the crash has had a profound impact on the aviation industry.

“The horrors that this created was a kick in the solar plexus for all of us. Nevertheless having got through it we must take stock and deal with it.”

In Iraq, the concern is that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) may control surface-to-air missiles capable of posing dangers to civilian flights.

Sir Clark is quoted as saying that all Emirates flights that cross Iraq will be re-routed in the next 10 days.

“We can’t do it all at once because we have got an awful lot going through it, but yes we will be doing that,” he was quoted as saying.

The changes are expected to add on average 45 minutes to flight times. The National could not obtain further comments on the issue from airline staff in Dubai.

Meanwhile, an Etihad Airways spokesperson said the airline is not considering changes at this point in time.

“Etihad maintains high levels of surveillance in key areas of risk, both from internal assessments and the support of external intelligence - agencies that are used to objectively validate all assumptions,” said the spokesperson.

These assessments also include consultation with other airlines agencies via established forums within the International Air Transport Association and the International Civil Aviation Organization. The same approach has been applied to operations to and from Iraq.

“There is no evidence that either the capability or the intent exists to target aircraft overflying Iraq, by either side of the current conflict in Iraq,” said the spokesperson. “The nature of the current security environment in Iraq is significantly different than in the Ukraine.

“Etihad maintains a set of contingencies relative to Iraq that will ensure the safe over-flight of our aircraft at all times. Should that situation change then once again Etihad would make decisions that prioritise safety above all else.”

The airline has in the past withdrawn flights from areas where the risk was considered too high. It was one of the first Gulf carriers to electively suspend flights to the Syrian capital Damascus, in August 2012, and to Tripoli, in November, 2013.

Last month operations to Peshawar in Pakistan were also suspended because of security concerns.

“These decisions demonstrate a sophisticated risk-adverse approach that underscores both our awareness and our assessment capability,” said the statement.

vtodorova@thenational.ae

Published: July 28, 2014 04:00 AM

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