Cathay Pacific says it has stopped flying over Iraqi airspace
Agence France-Presse and Lana Lam
Major airlines including Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines said they had stopped flying over Iraq, after Washington announced a ban on overflights by US airlines in the wake of its air strikes on Islamist fighters.
A Cathay Pacific spokeswoman confirmed the airline had "stopped flying over the concerned Iraqi airspace very recently" but did not say exactly when.
"We proactively review areas of concern to ensure a safe flight operation. This is an ongoing process of evaluation that involves both internal and external parties."
A Singapore Airlines spokesman said "we have not been routing our flights over Iraq for some time now", but also declined to specify when flights started avoiding Iraqi airspace.
China Southern Airlines and China Eastern did not respond to inquiries yesterday.
Flights to and from the Persian Gulf and beyond, which typically would have crossed Iraq, now favour parallel routes via Iran instead, according to real-time flight-tracking websites. Flightradar24.com indicated a long stream of airliners flying single file above western Iran - and virtually none over Iraq - a reversal from a month ago.
"We're still seeing some non-US carriers that are overflying Iraq," notably regional and domestic ones, Daniel Baker of US-based FlightAware.com said. "By and large, though, we are seeing a lot of people going further to the north" and over the Turkish-Iran border, avoiding Iraq as well as war-torn Syria, he said.
The US Federal Aviation Administration banned US civilian flights over Iraq just hours after US warplanes bombed Islamic State positions in Iraq.
Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways said yesterday that it would reroute flights away from Iraq.
"The decision follows the deterioration of the security situation in parts of the country," a statement by the carrier said. "The safety of Etihad Airways' passengers and staff is of paramount importance, and the airline will continue to monitor the security situation closely."
British Airways also said it would no longer overfly Iraq, as did Lufthansa and its subsidiaries Austrian Airlines and Swiss, joining Air France, Emirates, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.