Virgin Atlantic fined for flying over Iraqi airspace

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The Department of Transportation has fined Virgin Atlantic $1.05 million, but the airline will only be required to pay half if it meets certain conditions.
The Department of Transportation has fined Virgin Atlantic $1.05 million, but the airline will only be required to pay half if it meets certain conditions. Photo Credit: Virgin Atlantic

The Department of Transportation has fined Virgin Atlantic $1.05 million for flying over restricted airspace in Iraq on flights in which it was codesharing with Delta. 

The airline, however, will only be required to pay half of that total, provided that it commits no further violations and complies with the payment provisions of a consent order. 

The DOT earlier this month said that a $1 million penalty was forthcoming.

The violations occurred between September 2020 and September 2021, a period in which an FAA ban on all flights over the Baghdad region was in effect due to heightened militia activity. The ban began in March 2020 and remained in effect until October 2021, at which time it was scaled back to only apply to low-altitude flying. 

Virgin Atlantic is subject to FAA rules on flights in which it is carrying the Delta code, even when flying entirely outside the U.S.

In a statement, Virgin Atlantic said that it committed the violations unwittingly on flights between the U.K. and India. At the time the violations occurred, the U.K.'s Department of Transport, as well as many other global aviation authorities, permitted overflights of Iraqi airspace at high altitude, and hundreds of planes were flying over Iraq daily, Virgin Atlantic said. 

"As soon as we were made aware of this compliance issue by the DOT, our codeshare flight routings were immediately corrected," the carrier said. "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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