In Brief

Flying over warzones: Emirates to alter Iraq flight path

Flights over Iraq will be re-routed due to the threats after Flight MH17 'changed everything'

Emirates, one of the largest airlines in the world, has announced that it will no longer fly over Iraq due to the threat posed by Islamist militants.

Following the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine, airlines have been forced to reconsider flight paths over conflict zones.

"The fact of the matter is MH17 changed everything" Sir Tim Clarke, president of Emirates, told The Times.

"The horrors that this created was a kick in the solar plexus for all of us. We cannot continue to say, 'well it's a political thing'. We have to do something. We have to take the bull by the horns".

The alteration to routes that would ordinarily have flown over Iraq, which will instead take aircraft over either Saudi Arabia or Iran, is expected to add an extra 45 minutes to journey times and increase staff and fuel costs for the airline. These changes are expected to be implemented within a week to ten days.

US intelligence is currently investigating whether Islamic State, formerly known as Isis, is in possession of surface-to-air missiles capable of shooting down commercial aircrafts.

Hundreds of flights pass over Iraq every day, including planes from British Airways, Emirates, Air France and Lufthansa. According to the Times, an extremely popular route passes directly above the Iraqi city of Mosul, an Islamic militant stronghold.

Sir Tim said my making these changes, Emirates is signalling to customers that it takes the threat "extremely seriously".

However, Emirates' alliance partner airline Qantas says that after conducting security and risk assessments, it has no immediate plans to stop flying over Iraq, but will continue to monitor the situation.

"There is no suggestion that flying over Iraq is unsafe for commercial airlines, particularly given the cruising altitude that most, including Qantas, maintain," a spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald.  

The United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organisation is expected to meet with airline representatives tomorrow in Montreal to discuss how airlines can address the dangers of flying over conflict zones.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has several warnings in place over conflict zones including Afghanistan, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali, reports Quartz, but stresses that the final decision on flight paths rests with individual airlines.

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