The U.S. Department of Transportation has slapped Emirates with a $400,000 fine after finding the airline flew over prohibited areas of Iranian airspace during a 19-day stretch in July 2019. Emirates was subject to the fine because the Dubai-based airline was carrying the designator code of U.S. airline jetBlue (B6) as part of a controversial codeshare partnership.
Emirates said on Friday that the fine was the result of an “inadvertent mistake” but that the airline had “agreed to this settlement in the interest of resolving this matter.”
In June 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibited U.S. carriers from flying through areas of Iranian airspace through a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued as a result of heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the region.
The order was made after an American military drone was shot down by Iran with a surface to air missile. Escalating tensions “presented a risk to U.S. civil aviation operations and carried the potential for miscalculation or misidentification,” according to a statement released by the DOT.
International carriers including the likes of Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Lufthansa and Qantas rerouted flights around high-risk areas of Iranian airspace. Both Emirates and Etihad Airways only rerouted flights for a short time before resuming normal operations.
But because some Emirates flights were codesharing with jetBlue, they were subject to the legally enforceable NOTAM order. “Emirates violated the conditions of its authority to operate and engaged in passenger operations to and from the United States without proper DOT authority,” the department said on Thursday evening.
Emirates has 120 days to pay $200,000 of the fine. If no further violations are registered within one year, the remaining $200,000 will be waived. Emirates has also been ordered to cease and desist from future similar violations.
The codeshare agreement with jetBlue has proved controversial in the past because critics claim it allows Emirates to circumvent the ‘Fly America Act’ that prevents taxpayer-funded travel for government officials being awarded to foreign airlines.
By carrying the jetBlue designator, lucrative government contracts are officially awarded to a U.S. domestic carrier but Emirates takes the lion share of revenues.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.