US fines Emirates $400,000 for flying over Iran airspace

US fines Emirates airline $400,000 for flying over Iran airspace
3 min read
The UAE's national airline has been fined over flights operated last year amid tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Emirates accepted the fine despite disagreeing with the enforcement action [Getty]

The US Transportation Department fined Emirates airline $400,000 on Thursday for flights through Iranian airspace during a time of heightened political tension between the US and Iran last year.

Half of the penalty will be waived if Emirates avoids similar violations for one year.

The department said the flights carried the code of New York-based carrier JetBlue Airways, which sold seats on the Emirates flights. The arrangement made the flights subject to a US ban on flying in Iranian airspace, including areas over the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

The Federal Aviation Administration imposed the ban after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone over the Gulf of Oman.

The FAA cited political tension with Iran as raising the risk that American civilian planes in the area could be wrongly identified as military planes.

The flights took place over 19 days in July last year.

In a consent order, Emirates said it doesn't believe the violation deserves enforcement action but agreed to the fine to settle the matter.

Emirates said after the FAA order, it suspended all flights in Iranian airspace except two a day to Tehran.

The airline said that when it resumed flying planes to and from the US through Iranian airspace, it mistakenly kept JetBlue's code on the flights.

The airline said it fixed the error and made changes to avoid the same mistake in the future.

The Transportation Department said it viewed Emirates’ violations seriously, and that a fine “establishes a strong deterrent against future similar unlawful practices by Emirates and other carriers.”

The risk to civilian planes flying over areas of conflict was highlighted in 2014, when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over an area of Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia rebels.

All 298 passengers and crew members on the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight were killed.

Emirates is owned by a state-controlled corporation in the UAE and is based in Dubai.

Iran and US on opposing sides

US President Donald Trump said last month that he was imposing sanctions on Iranians for violating a UN arms embargo and demanded enforcement by US allies, who roundly dispute that he has any such authority.

Trump's defiant move came on the very day that the United Nations was celebrating its 75th anniversary with a virtual summit full of calls for greater international cooperation.

The Trump administration said it was imposing sanctions on 27 individuals and entities under a UN resolution including Iran's defense ministry, its Atomic Energy Organization and Venezuela's leftist leader Nicolas Maduro, whom Washington has been trying without success to topple.

"The United States has now restored UN sanctions on Iran," Trump said in a statement.

"My actions today send a clear message to the Iranian regime and those in the international community who refuse to stand up to Iran."

The Trump administration argues that it is enforcing a UN arms embargo that Iran has violated, including through an attack on Saudi oil facilities.

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