Qatar’s national carrier has announced that it would be temporarily canceling flights to Baghdad and Sulaymaniyah today, as well as rerouting its aircraft to avoid flying over Iraqi airspace.
The move comes as the US Federal Aviation Authority bans its airlines from flying over Iraq while the US conducts airstrikes against artillery targets belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq (ISIS).
The ongoing fighting has international carriers especially wary following the recent crash of a Malaysia Airlines airplane that had been flying over conflict-ridden eastern Ukraine.
Nearly 300 people aboard MH17 were killed last month after the aircraft was thought to be shot down by pro-Russia separatists.
In a statement sent to Doha News today, Qatar Airways said:
“Qatar Airways, like all airlines, follows the regulations and recommendations regarding safe air corridors from all relevant international organisations and security agencies, including ICAO, IATA and State Civil Aviation Authorities, as we place the safety and security of our passengers and crew as our foremost priority.
Given the current situation, Qatar Airways is temporarily suspending the use of Iraqi airspace, canceling August 9th flights to Baghdad and Sulaymaniyah, and will continue to monitor the situation closely regarding future operations.”
Earlier this week, security concerns prompted Dubai-based Emirates Airline to announce that it would stop flying over Iraqi airspace by the end of August, except to go to Baghdad and Basra. It would also be suspending flights to Erbil from Aug. 12.
And Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has also said it’s suspending flights to Erbil due to security reasons.
FlightRadar24 showed little to no aircraft flying over Iraq this afternoon, while a steady stream of planes appeared to be going over Iran instead, including those belonging to Emirates and Qatar Airways.
According to the Wall Street Journal, several other international carriers have also said they will avoid Iraqi airspace, including British Airways, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines.
The FAA ban that took effect yesterday was almost a moot point for American carriers, as United and Delta had already been avoiding Iraqi airspace for weeks, the newspaper added.