DUBAI (Reuters) - Emirates and flydubai have resumed using Iraqi airspace for flights to other countries, the Middle East airlines said on Monday, two days after Iraq declared victory in its years-long fight against Islamic state.
Several airlines stopped flying over Iraq in 2014 on safety concerns because of the conflict and after a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet was shot down over Ukraine the same year.
Airlines have instead been flying longer routes over Iran and other countries, increasing congestion in the region, with many airlines also avoiding Syrian airspace.
The use of Iraqi airspace is likely to help Emirates and flydubai to save on fuel costs by shortening flying hours and also reduce regional airspace congestion.
Emirates has "resumed utilizing Iraqi airspace and a very small number of our flights overfly Iraqi airspace each day", an airline spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
The spokeswoman said that Emirates reviews its flight operations regularly, in line with advice from regulators and authorities.
"Safety, security and operational efficiency will always be the top considerations when planning flight paths," the spokeswoman said.
Emirates did not say when it started flying over Iraq again or which routes were affected.
Airlines flying through the region have in the past used Iraqi airspace for flights to Europe and the United States.
Flydubai started using eastern Iraqi airspace again on Nov. 28, mostly affecting flights to and from Eastern Europe and Turkey, a spokeswoman said in an email.
"All the necessary risk and security assessments were conducted prior to the start of overflying," the spokeswoman said.
Iraqi forces recaptured the last areas still under Islamic State control along the border with Syria on Saturday and secured the western desert, marking the end of the war against the militants three years after they had captured about a third of Iraq’s territory.
Emirates and flydubai have continued flying to and from Iraq since 2014 but with temporary suspensions on some flights from time to time.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by David Goodman)