Iraqi operator Fly Baghdad has been banned from operating within European Union airspace over a series of safety concerns, particularly regarding crew fatigue management.

Fly Baghdad operates around a dozen aircraft – primarily Boeing 737 variants including -800s and -900ERs – on services within the Middle East, eastern Mediterranean, and the Indian subcontinent.

It had attempted to secure third-country operator’s authorisation from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency in February last year, a requirement for serving EU destinations.

But EASA, while examining the airline’s operation, determined that it did not ensure that flight times, crew duty periods and crew rest periods were within limitations established by Iraqi regulations.

The European Commission, which has newly included Fly Baghdad to its airline blacklist, says the carrier’s “inability to address these safety concerns” was demonstrated by its submission of an “unacceptable corrective action plan” to deal with the identified problems.

“Fly Baghdad did not demonstrate compliance with applicable international safety standards,” it adds.

EASA subsequently rejected Fly Baghdad’s application for third-country authorisation last December.

Although Fly Baghdad appealed this refusal, EASA upheld the rejection in September 2023, ruling that the appeal was “unfounded”, the Commission states.

Following the initial EASA refusal, EU air safety committee representatives informed the Iraqi civil aviation authority that it would review the operational situation of Fly Baghdad.

Fly Baghdad 737-800-c-Fly Baghdad

Source: Fly Baghdad

Fly Baghdad becomes the second Iraqi carrier individually blacklisted by the EU

Both the Iraqi regulator and the airline participated in an air safety committee hearing in mid-November.

Fly Baghdad presented information on root-cause analysis and actions taken on organisation, procedures, training and compliance, but ultimately failed to satisfy the committee.

“While expressing Fly Baghdad’s commitment to continuous safety improvement, the presentation addressing the individual safety concerns did not provide sufficient evidence of the detailed functioning of Fly Baghdad’s safety and quality management system,” says the Commission.

It adds that the information provided did not fully address the concerns which led to EASA’s refusal of third-country authorisation, and the corrective action plan – and the root-cause analysis – “did not demonstrate the air carrier’s ability to implement appropriate measures” to assure safety compliance.

Fly Baghdad, as a result, is one of six airlines – and the second from Iraq – to be banned from the EU on an individual basis.

Flag-carrier Iraqi Airways was banned in December 2015 and remains blacklisted despite years of negotiations to lift the restriction. In order to offer EU destinations both Iraqi Airways and Fly Baghdad need to enlist approved wet-lease carriers to serve routes on their behalf.

The banning of a second Iraqi airline has placed the Iraqi civil aviation authority – which oversees the holders of seven air operator’s certificates – under increased pressure.

Its representatives detailed efforts to conduct audits and strengthen its oversight capabilities to the mid-November committee meeting, including plans to source specialist knowledge in such areas as flight operations, airworthiness, and licensing.

But the Commission says it intends to carry out – with EASA support – an on-site verification visit to Iraq, to include a number of Iraqi airlines, to assess whether certification and oversight of the country’s carriers meet international standards.