British Airways will continue to fly over Iraq despite concerns that Islamic militants could use a missile to bring down a passenger plane.
Willie Walsh, the chief executive of BA parent company IAG, said flying over the country is “safe”.
He told the Financial Times: “We fly over Iraq because we consider it safe. If we thought Iraq was unsafe we would not fly over Iraq.”
However, he admitted that passengers may find the different stance taken by different airlines “confusing”.
Last week, Emirates announced it will no longer fly its aircraft over Iraq (see news, July 28). Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic and Air France have also suspended flights over the country.
Six days ago, Qantas said it had no plans to discontinue operating planes through the area (see news, July 29). It has now changed its position and “temporarily rerouted its flights within the Middle East to avoid Iraqi airspace”.
Earlier this month, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and carrying 298 people was shot down over Ukraine (see news, July 17).
Walsh said BA had in March decided to stop flying over eastern Ukraine.
He added that airlines should carry out their own risk assessments to decided whether or not to fly over a particular country.
Currently, airlines do not share risk assessments. Walsh said that if BA had earlier this year shared their Ukraine risk assessment with Oneworld partner Malaysia Airlines, then maybe last month’s flight MH17 disaster would not have happened.
Last week, the United Nation’s civil aviation body said it will swiftly form a task force on airline safety (see news, July 30).