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Emirates Slapped With Big $1.8 Million Fine For Flying Through Iraqi Airspace Despite Safety Warnings

Emirates Slapped With Big $1.8 Million Fine For Flying Through Iraqi Airspace Despite Safety Warnings

emirates planes parked up at dubai international airport

The Department of Transportation has slapped Dubai-based airline Emirates with a big $1.8 million fine after the carrier repeatedly flew through Iraqi airspace on flights to and from the United States for around nine months.

This is the second time that Emirates has been hit with a fine for violating Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airspace prohibitions in the last four years, and this penalty is significantly bigger than the previous fine imposed by the DOT.

In this case, the DOTs Office of Aviation Consumer Protection started an investigation into allegations that Emirates had operated 122 flights through Iraqi airspace on flights to and from the United States between December 2021 and August 2022 that were in breach of FAA allegations.

As a foreign carrier, Emirates is usually free to choose whatever route it deems is safe and is not usually bound by FAA rules designed to keep airliners safe while flying over certain regions in the Middle East.

In this case, however, Emirates had entered into a codeshare agreement with JetBlue and, as such, was carrying JetBlue’s B6 designator code on these flights. By carrying the designator code of a US airline, Emirates was then required to comply with FAA airspace restrictions.

While Emirates says it entered into a settlement agreement with the DOT for this alleged breach, the Dubai-based carrier claims the breach was due to a technicality over what altitude its aircraft were flying at while in Iraqi airspace.

At the time, the FAA regulations concerning Iraqi airspace banned airlines carrying a US designator code from flying below 32,000 feet. Emirates says it had every intention of operating these flights at above this altitude but air traffic control in the region ‘categorically instructed’ the pilots to operate below 32,000 feet.

In a detailed statement, the airline explained:

“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 FL320 while over Iraqi airspace. These incidents involved 122 flights operated by Emirates, while carrying a Jetblue marketing code, between December 2021 and August 2022.”

“Emirates wishes to state that we had planned to operate these 122 flights in question at or above FL320. However, while these flights were operating, Air Traffic Control (ATC) did not give clearance to ascend to FL320, or had categorically instructed these flights to operate below FL320.”

The statement continued: “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 DOT found that Emirates did the same thing for 19 days in July 2019 after the FAA issued a Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) restricting the use of Iranian airspace due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the region.

At the time, Emirates said it had made an “inadvertent mistake” and agreed to enter into a consent agreement with the DOT, promising not to repeat the violation.

The latest fine against Emirates takes in to account the length of time that the airline was breathing the prohibition, as well as the fact that Emirates had broken its consent order with the DOT.


A previous version of this story stated that the airspace was Iran. This has now been corrected to state Iraq.

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