The US Levies Fine on Emirates for Flights Passing Over Iraq

Emirates, a Middle Eastern airline, was fined $1.8 million by the Transportation Department on June 13th for operating flights in locations that are off-limits to U.S. carriers, even though JetBlue Airways was authorized to sell tickets on those flights. The penalties apply to many flights between the US and the UAE via Iraq in 2021 and 2022.

Emirates, headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, was fined $400,000 for comparable flights in 2020 and committed not to do it again.

Through a practice known as code-sharing, JetBlue, headquartered in New York, was able to sell tickets on Emirates flights under its own brand. Under certain conditions set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), foreign airlines are allowed to operate flights offered using the brand name or codes of a U.S. airline in the United States.

As part of the agreement, if Emirates follows all U.S. rules for a year, a $300,000 part of the fine will be waived.

Months before Emirates began a similar arrangement with United Airlines, in October 2022, the code-sharing collaboration between JetBlue and Emirates came to an end.

U.S. airlines were prohibited from flying over Iraq below 32,000 feet due to safety concerns, said the FAA.  The planes were supposed to remain above 32,000 feet, but Emirates claimed in a consent order that they lowered their altitude solely in response to air traffic controllers’ orders.

Terror organizations with portable anti-aircraft equipment pose the greatest danger to civilian aircraft, which might lead to their purposeful targeting.

Because of the high potential for terrorist attacks, ongoing hostilities, and anti-aircraft armament in the area, the FAA banned U.S. airlines from flying lower than 32,000 feet above Iraq. The defense systems of both foreign and local militaries stationed in the area have the potential to mistake civilian aircraft for military planes.

Through its Risk Assessment Manual (Document #10084), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) advises its 193 member governments on the management of airspace over or near war zones. To protect civil aviation operations, countries conduct their own risk evaluations in accordance with ICAO recommendations and, if necessary, impose airspace bans or aircraft altitude limitations over war zones.