Emirates, one of the world’s largest airlines, will not travel in Iraq airspace due to the ongoing violence from the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS. Sir Tim Clark, president of the airlines, said the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 changed the airline’s approach to warzones.
“This is a political animal but . . . the fact of the matter is MH17 changed everything, and that was very nearly in European airspace,” he said. “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.”
From The London Times:
Hundreds of flights, including those by British Airways as well as Emirates, pass over Isis-held territory in Iraq every day, with a particularly popular route taking aircraft directly over the Iraqi city of Mosul, a stronghold of the hardline militants.
Sir Tim said that he was “not comfortable” with the situation. Emirates aircraft make up the largest number of the more than 50 flights a day that travel in and out of British airports and across Iraqi airspace, which lies on the main flight corridor linking Europe with Asia.
MH17 was shot down on July 17 and the United States said new evidence showed the missile was shot from Russian territory. Two-hundred ninety-eight people died, including 80 children. The crime scene remained unsecure for days before the pro-Russian forces transported the bodies in refrigerated trucks. The victims finally made it back to The Netherlands almost a week later. However, the pro-Russians did not allow experts or investigators near the site and the fighting between them and Kiev is so intense it is unsafe for anyone to venture outside.
As of Sunday, ISIS has not used any missiles or shot down aircraft, but the US is investigating if the terrorist group “acquired missiles capable of shooting down a civilian aircraft at 30,000ft or higher from stockpiles in neighbouring Syria.” MH17 flew at 33,000ft. Malaysia Airlines came under heavy criticism for flying over a known warzone. The pro-Russian forces boasted when they shot down Ukrainian military airplanes.
“That is the kind of thing that will demonstrate to the public that we take this extremely seriously and that is exactly what we are doing,” he said.
Sir Tim hopes the airline industry will learn from the MH17 tragedy.
“I was absolutely beside myself with rage and anger with what happened,” he said. “It is something that, as an airline person, it is very difficult to deal with. It is a slight on what you do. It suggests that you are not doing your job properly. From out of this ghastly, hideous mass murder if we are going to get anything out of it, it is that the airline community are minded to try and improve what they do.”
ISIS originated in Syria and declared a caliphate, which contains areas of Syria and Iraq. Recently, the jihadists expelled all the Christians from Mosul and imposed Sharia law. Mosul was home to one of the largest Christian communities in the world and lived peacefully with Muslims for over 2,000 years.