US fines Virgin Atlantic $1.05m for flying in restricted Iraq airspace

Virgin Atlantic has been fined more than $1 million for flying in restricted airspace over Iraq on services between London and India.

The penalty was imposed by the US Department of Transportation (DoT) for operating flights under a codeshare with US partner Delta Air Lines.

The US DoT, imposing the £1.05 million fine, said: “By carrying the DL [Delta] code on flights in airspace in which the FAA prohibits US carriers from flying, Virgin Atlantic operated in violation of the conditions of its statement of authorisation and in violation of federal law.”

An investigation by the department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection revealed that the UK carrier operated a “significant number” of flights carrying the DL code over restricted airspace in Iraq while a ban was in place between September 2020 and September 2021. 

Virgin Atlantic was ordered to cease and desist from future similar violations.

At the time the UK Department for Transport and other global authorities allowed operations in Iraqi airspace at high altitudes, with hundreds of aircraft flying over the country every day.

However, the US authorities did not permit US carriers, or non-US carriers operating with the code of a US airline, to fly over Iraq at any altitude.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “As soon as we were made aware of this compliance issue by the DoT, our code share flight routings were immediately corrected.

“We have thoroughly reviewed and strengthened our systems and processes. The safety and security of our aircraft, customers and crew was never compromised at any point and remains our highest priority.”

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