Emirates will stop flying over Iraq due to concerns over jihadist missile attacks following the MH17 air disaster in Ukraine, the airline’s president Tim Clark told The Times on Monday.
Almost 300 people aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 died when it came down in eastern Ukraine nearly two weeks ago, with Washington and Europe claiming it was shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Moscow militants.
“This is a political animal but… the fact of the matter is MH17 changed everything, and that was very nearly in European airspace,” Clark told The Times in an interview published on Monday.
“We cannot continue to say, ‘Well it’s a political thing’. We have to do something. We have to take the bull by the horns,” added the British president of the Dubai-based carrier.
Clark predicted other carriers would also decide to stop flying over Iraq, as the global airline industry reviews the risk of overflying combat zones.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, a Boeing 777 aircraft, was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 298 people aboard on July 17 when it was downed close to the village of Grabove, in the rebellion-wracked region of Donetsk in east Ukraine.
“The horrors that this created was a kick in the solar plexus for all of us,” Clark told the daily paper.
“Nevertheless having got through it we must take stock and deal with it.”
On Sunday meanwhile, the commercial director of Malaysia Airlines called for a complete overhaul of the way flight paths are deemed safe following the plane’s downing by a suspected missile.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Hugh Dunleavy said the disaster would have “an unprecedented impact on the aviation industry”, claiming that airlines can no longer depend on aviation authorities for reliable information about flying over conflict zones.
“For too long, airlines have been shouldering the responsibility for making decisions about what constitutes a safe flight path, over areas in political turmoil around the world,” he wrote.
“We are not intelligence agencies, but airlines, charged with carrying passengers in comfort between destinations.”