An Iraqi Airways plane sits on the tarmac at Baghdad International Airport in 2005.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced mandatory restrictions on U.S. airlines flying over Iraq late on Thursday, citing "the potentially hazardous situation created by armed conflict." Carriers are restricted from flying at or below 30,000 feet in the country, an increase from a previous restriction from flying at or below 20,000 feet.
International airlines had already begun rerouting flights to avoid Iraqi airspace, and many U.S. carriers have also developed alternate routes to avoid the country altogether. Iraqi officials have said it is safe to fly over.
The FAA's order shows an increasing awareness of the dangers of flying over conflict zones following the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine.
Although the new restrictions are meant to safeguard commercial flights, the new 30,000-foot restriction would not be sufficient to deter the kind of missile that likely hit MH17, which had been flying at 33,000 feet.
Airlines have been leading the precautions beyond the FAA's orders since the crash, announcing alternate flight paths and no-fly zonesAirlines have been leading the precautions beyond the FAA's orders since the crash, announcing alternate flight paths and no-fly zones in Ukraine, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Korea.
European air control officials are likely to also announce airspace restrictions Friday; however, they will not be binding on carriers in the way FAA restrictions are.
At a United Nations meeting Tuesday, air safety officials discussed how to proceed in conflict zones. Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Consolidated Airlines Group, said "individual airlines have to remain in charge of making the final decision."
Passengers with questions about their upcoming flight's path can contact their airline.
Additional reporting from The Associated Press
Tags: AIRLINES, FAA, IRAQ, TRAVEL & LEISURE, US & World, WORLD