LONDON – Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) fined Virgin Atlantic for overflying Iraq whilst using Delta Air Lines’ DL code.
Virgin Atlantic will be fined $1.05 million for operating flights carrying a Delta DL code in regions where a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight prohibition was in effect over Iraq.
The DOT has said that the airline was ordered to cease and desist from future similar violations.
The Violation in Effect…
The DOT said the following on the violation that Virgin Atlantic made:
“An investigation by the Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection revealed that between September 16, 2020, and September 16, 2021, Virgin Atlantic operated a significant number of flights carrying the DL code over restricted airspace in Iraq while an FAA Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) was in effect.”
“By carrying the DL code on flights in airspace in which the FAA prohibits U.S. carriers from flying, Virgin Atlantic operated in violation of the conditions of its statement of authorization and in violation of federal law.”
Such a NOTAM was possibly put in place due to the withdrawal of American military forces from the region between March 2020 and December 2021.
Why Wasn’t Delta Fined?
Virgin Atlantic is the main culprit in this, as it was an aircraft owned by the UK carrier that operated the flight, irrespective of codesharing arrangements put in place between the two sides.
If it were the other way around, being a VS code being placed on a Delta-operated flight, then it would be Delta Air Lines who would receive the fine.
So in the letter of the law, this does appear to be the correct result and will no doubt be a wake-up call for Virgin Atlantic to ensure no other fines are handed to them.
It is unclear whether this was an oversight from Virgin Atlantic or not, or whether it was a deliberate violation or not.
Virgin Atlantic’s Middle East Destinations…
In terms of Virgin Atlantic’s route network in the Middle East, this is where they currently operate to at the moment:
- Tel Aviv
- And more!
Virgin Atlantic flights will no doubt have to pass Iraqi airspace on the Islamabad, Lahore, and Dubai rotations, as well as on destinations previously served during the time period the violations took place.
It will probably come as no surprise that due to the agreements and joint ventures Virgin has with Delta, these Middle-Eastern flights will have the DL code on them.
It remains clear that Virgin Atlantic will have to keep a closer eye on potential NOTAMs instigated by the FAA in the Middle East moving forward in order to avoid more violations and fines.
As a result of this fine, it can definitely be suggested that there will be more cooperation between Virgin, Delta, and the FAA to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
But for now, all eyes will be on Virgin Atlantic to see if they receive any more fines from the FAA because of the same thing.