Strategic Meetings Summit London, 26 September,
September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
British Airways CEO Willie Walsh has said it will continue to fly over Iraq despite other airlines diverting planes from the area, due to the threat of an attack from Islamic militants on the ground.
Walsh told The Financial Times: “We fly over Iraq because we consider it safe. If we thought Iraq was unsafe we would not fly over Iraq.”
It follows the news that airlines including Air France, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Lufthansa have moved their aircraft from flying over Iraqi airspace.
British Airways operates flights from the UK to destinations including Dubai and Doha would normally cross Iraq airspace.
"Our flight plans vary depending on a number of factors but our highest and first priority is always the safety of our crew and customers," BA said in a statement.
Walsh said passengers may find it “confusing” as to why airlines adopt different stances on flights over areas of conflict.
Walsh said BA had in March decided to stop flying over eastern Ukraine.
He added that airlines should carry out their own risk assessments to decide whether or not to fly over a particular country because they have different operations and aircraft.
Currently, airlines do not share risk assessments. Walsh said that if BA had earlier this year shared their Ukraine risk assessment with Oneworld partner Malaysia Airlines, then maybe last month's flight MH17 disaster would not have happened.
Last week, the United Nations’ civil aviation body is to form a task force to address safety issues after the MH17 crash.
It said governments should provide airlines with better information with which to make risk assessments of the various threats they face.
Australian airline Qantas has also said it will “temporarily reroute its flights within the Middle East to avoid Iraqi airspace". This comes six days after the airline said it has no plans to stop flying over the area.