Qantas sticks to flights over Iraq

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Qantas is reassuring its passengers that it’s still safe to fly over Iraq, despite network partner Emirates’ deciding to reroute its fleet away from the conflict-torn nation.


The Dubai-based airline says it’s made the decision over fears that militants Iraq may have surface to air missile capabilities.

Abby Dinham reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

“The tragedy of flight MH17 has changed everything.”

Those are the words of Emirates Chief executive Tim Clark.

The airline is expected to re-route its fleet out of Iraqi airspace within the next ten days.

But Qantas says it has no plans to change the routes of its planes, a decision that’s angered some in the security industry.

Roger Henning is founder of the private company, Homeland Security Asia-Pacific.

He disagrees with Qantas’ decision.

“Deciding the risk is out of bounds in eastern Europe, but OK in the Middle East it’s Russian roulette.”

Qantas’ Dubai to London flight enters Iraqi airspace.

An airline statement says there is no information to suggest that there’s a risk to commercial aircraft passing over Iraq, particularly at the altitudes its planes fly.

But Mr Henning suggests passengers should be vigilant about researching their airline’s flight paths.

“Anyone flying to Europe from Australia should think very carefully about getting on any airline that is openly flying over a warzone between Australia and London.”

Emirates is reportedly considering longer routes over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, instead of Iraq.

But some aviation experts say Iraqi airspace could be a better option.

Airspace author Geoff Thomas says avoiding conflict areas in the Middle East is a tough ask.

“If you don’t fly over Iraq you’ve got to fly over Syria, or got to fly over Lebanon, or you got to fly over Gaza. The other side you have to fly over Iran, you have to fly over Afghanistan, you have to fly over Pakistan, the whole area is what you would call a turbulent zone.”

Other major airlines including British Airways, Etihad, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways also continue to fly through Iraqi airspace.