British Airways will continue to fly over Iraq as other carriers divert flights after MH17 disaster

The downing of MH17 has heightened concern over the routes aircrafts take

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The Independent Online

The chief executive of British Airways has said it will continue to fly over war-torn Iraq even though other European airlines have diverted planes amid heightened fears following the downing of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 over Ukraine.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA's owners International Airlines Group, told the Financial Times BA still flies over Iraq because they consider it a safe route, saying: “If we thought Iraq was unsafe we would not fly over Iraq."

The Iraqi government is currently battling militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isis) who have captured large swathes of the country, including its second-largest city, Mosul. The unrest has created concern about the safety of using routes that fly over the area.

Etihad Airways are also continuing to fly passenger planes over Iraq.

Meanwhile, Air France and Virgin Atlantic began diverting flights over the air space earlier this week. An Emirates Airline spokesman in Dubai said it would also divert planes that use Iraqi airspace and on Friday, German carrier Luthansa also announced it was suspending flights over Iraq.

However, BA has not been flying over airspace in eastern Ukraine for the past few months, where pro-Russian separatists are accused by the West of shooting down flight MH17 with a surface to air missile, killing all 298 passengers on board. Rebels deny shooting down the jet.

The extent of the wreckage at the site where Malaysia Airlines MH17 crashed near Hrabove (Grabovo) close to Donetsk

Mr Walsh conceded some customers may find it “confusing” that different carriers have different policies, but suggested airlines should be able to carry out their own individual risk assessments to determine whether it is safe to fly over war zones, because they have different operations and aircraft.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation has started considering how “threat information” can be best made available to regulators and carriers after the MH17 crash, the FT reports.