Emirates Airlines Settles $1.5 Million Fine with US for Flying Over Prohibited Iraqi Airspace

The violations involved 122 Emirates flights conducted between December 2021 and August 2022, all carrying a JetBlue marketing code

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on June 14, 2024, 16:31:45


emirates settles fine with us


Dubai’s leading airline, Emirates has settled with the US Department of Transportation following a $1.5 million fine for operating flights through restricted Iraqi airspace with JetBlue Airways' designator code.

“Emirates has reached a settlement with the US Department of Transport (DOT), relating to the alleged breach of Special Federal Aviation Regulations (SFAR) that restricted airlines carrying a US air-carrier code from operating below 32,000 ft while over Iraqi airspace”, said Emirates spokesperson. 

The violations involved 122 Emirates flights conducted between December 2021 and August 2022, all carrying a JetBlue marketing code. The US Department of Transportation claimed that these flights, operating between the UAE and the United States, traversed airspace restricted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for US carriers. 

An Emirates spokesperson explained that the airline had planned to fly at or above the restricted altitude, but air traffic control either did not grant clearance to ascend or directed the flights to operate below the specified altitude.

“Emirates wishes to state that we had planned to operate these 122 flights in question at or above the restricted flight level (32,000 ft), but our pilots had to descend into the prohibited area due to orders from Air Traffic Control (ATC),” the spokesperson explained.

“Our pilots duly followed ATC instructions, a decision which is fully aligned with international aviation regulations for safety reasons. Emirates’ priority is always the safety of our passengers and employees,” the airline said.

According to a Reuters report, the DoT  stated that Emirates' actions breached a consent order from October 2020, which had previously fined the airline for operating flights in FAA-prohibited airspace.

An Emirates spokesperson noted that the airline has since ceased operating flights with US carrier codes over Iraqi airspace. Emirates informed the DoT that it prioritizes the safety of passengers, employees, and other airspace users. The spokesperson explained that the flights in question operated below the permitted altitude due to direct instructions from air traffic controllers and, in some cases, to avoid collisions.

Emirates asserted that its pilots were legally required to follow air traffic control instructions, and any non-compliance could have resulted in significant safety risks, the department relayed to Reuters.

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