International airlines flee Iraqi airspace

Etihad Airways is avoiding Iraqi airspace comes after Washington banned all U.S. civilian flights over the country

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Etihad Airways and Gulf Air are re-routing flights to avoid “conflict airspace” in Iraq, as Turkish Airlines says it has resumed its flights to the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.

Both airlines announced their decisions Saturday, a day after the Obama administration ordered U.S. airlines not to fly over Iraq following the first U.S. airstrikes in the north of the country.

“Etihad Airways has announced that it will reroute its flights to avoid conflict airspace in Iraq,” Agence France-Presse quoted a statement by the carrier as saying.

“The decision follows the deterioration of the security situation in parts of the country.

“The safety of Etihad Airways’ passengers and staff is of paramount importance, and the airline will continue to monitor the security situation closely.”

Dubai-based carrier Emirates said on Saturday it had suspended flights to the Iraqi Kurdish capital Erbil due to increased security concerns.

An Emirates spokesman said the airline will continue to operate daily, non-stop flights between Dubai and Basra, along with its four-times weekly service to Baghdad.

The Federal Aviation Administration in Washington banned all U.S. civilian flights over Iraq just hours after American warplanes Friday bombed positions held by the jihadists, who have occupied swathes of northern Iraq.

See also: Airline companies divided over the use of Iraqi airspace

The ban was implemented due to the "hazardous situation" created by fighting between militants from the Islamic State of Iran and Syria (ISIS) and Iraqi security forces, according to an FAA statement.

The organization had previously banned all air travel over Iraq below 30,000 feet on 31 July, according to the BBC.

Turkish Airlines said Saturday it was changing its flight times to Erbil.

The decisions come three weeks after a Malaysia Airlines plane with nearly 300 people on board was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

Australian airline Qantas said last week that it had suspended flights over Iraq, following similar actions by German airline Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, British Airways and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

(With Associated Press and AFP)

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