Qatar’s national carrier has been fined US$185,000 by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for flying over “unsafe” areas of the world.
The move followed an investigation that found some Qatar Airways flights flew in foreign airspace subject to an FAA flight ban in late 2014 and early 2015.
The organization has the power to fine Qatar Airways because the flights in question operated as codeshares with American Airlines (AA).
This means passengers on these flights may have bought tickets from AA, and that the flight had a dual QR/AA flight number.
“The FAA forbids US flight operations over certain regional conflict zones around the world,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement on Thursday.
“The Department takes aviation safety and security matters very seriously, and will continue to take enforcement action when these important safety and security restrictions are not followed.”
The US Department of Transportation documents did not reveal which prohibited airspace the airline flew over.
Its website contains an extensive list of areas around the world that are off-limits to US carriers – or foreign airlines codesharing with US airlines.
However, Travel Weekly reports that the fine resulted from 16 Qatar Airways flights. Eight of them involved flying over Yemen, seven over restricted parts of Iraq, and one in Ukrainian airspace.
The FAA first restricted flights over some areas of Ukraine in April 2014. It extended the banned area in a further ruling in Dec. 2014, and again in October 2015.
These restrictions followed the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in July 2014.
Qatar Airways’ response
In a consent order detailing the airline’s violations and its fine, the US Department of Transportation asked Qatar Airways to “cease and desist” from future violations.
Qatar Airways declined to comment on the fine to Doha News. But its response was published in the same US document.
The national carrier said it took a “very active role” in monitoring aviation security concerns in areas where it operated.
It said that after the US Department of Transport launched its inquiry into the violations, the airline conducted a “thorough investigation.”
It then “took the necessary remedial action” to ensure all FAA regulations were met during the flight planning process.
Qatar Airways added that it “regularly and routinely” published airspace restriction briefs. These increase the awareness of its flight crews, who are also advised about aviation security concerns.
The airline further noted that it has now implemented an Advanced Flight Watch System that allows it to track planes wherever they are in the world.
The system also allows it to communicate with its aircraft about safety and security conditions en route.
The violations of the FAA’s prohibited areas occurred before the new system became fully-live in mid-2015, the airline added.
Meanwhile, in September of this year, Qatar Airways said it was testing an even more advanced tracking system that would go live in 2018.