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Virgin Atlantic $1.05 Million Fine For Flying Over Iraq

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The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined Virgin Atlantic $1.05 million after discovering that the airline frequently flew over Iraq despite a Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) designating Iraqi airspace as out of bounds.

According to the DOT, its Office of Aviation Consumer Protection conducted an inquiry and discovered that Virgin Atlantic had repeatedly flown across Iraqi airspace between September 16, 2020, and September 16, 2021.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned American airlines from flying across Iraqi airspace during this time due to concerns that commercial aircraft would be shot down by surface-to-air missiles.

The flights in question were using a Delta Air Lines flight number even though Virgin Atlantic does not have a U.S. registration; this was done as part of a comprehensive codeshare arrangement between the two carriers.

The aircraft had to abide by the same airspace limitations that an airline licensed in the United States would have to because they were carrying that carrier’s flight number.

On September 15, 2021, Virgin Atlantic claims it was informed that it was in violation of federal aviation regulations and promptly ceased operating flights over Iraq on its codeshare services with Delta Air Lines.

The Crawley-based airline travels on a number of routes, including those to Delhi and Mumbai, over Iraqi airspace.

“As soon as we were made aware of this compliance issue by the DOT, our code share flight routings were immediately corrected,” a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told us.

“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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