August 2, 2014

The chief executive of British Airways has said it will continue to fly over war-torn Iraq even though other European airlines have diverted planes amid heightened fears following the downing of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 over Ukraine. Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA’s owners International Airlines Group, told the Financial Times BA still flies over Iraq because they consider it a safe route, saying: “If we thought Iraq was unsafe we would not fly over Iraq.”

Etihad Airways are also continuing to fly passenger planes over Iraq. Meanwhile, Air France and Virgin Atlantic began diverting flights over the air space earlier this week. An Emirates Airline spokesman in Dubai said it would also divert planes that use Iraqi airspace and on Friday, German carrier Lufthansa also announced it was suspending flights over Iraq.

However, BA has not been flying over airspace in eastern Ukraine for the past few months, where pro-Russian separatists are accused by the West of shooting down flight MH17 with a surface to air missile, killing all 298 passengers on board. Rebels deny shooting down the jet.

Mr Walsh conceded some customers may find it “confusing” that different carriers have different policies, but suggested airlines should be able to carry out their own individual risk assessments to determine whether it is safe to fly over war zones, because they have different operations and aircraft.

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