If the FAA determines that an airspace is unsafe, and a non-US airline thinks it knows better and fails to cancel flights departing into that airspace, and passenger lives are lost as a result, is the airline responsible for knowingly putting their passengers in danger?

What about the PIC? Is he responsible?

  • $\begingroup$ Is there anything else they can even be sued for other than what families typically sue for in the event of a crash? Other than that, I’m not sure the FAA restricted flights from entering Iran or exiting Iran? I just think they had a suggestion posted? $\endgroup$ Jan 10, 2020 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ It was a total ban on all US airlines $\endgroup$
    – JoelFan
    Jan 10, 2020 at 1:08
  • $\begingroup$ I think this is too broad to answer easily: the answer could be different depending on the country of the airline. It might also be 'too legal' to answer here. If you don't get a good response here, you might try law.SE. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Jan 10, 2020 at 1:13
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is about law and liability and would be better on Law.SE. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jan 10, 2020 at 1:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall The tag description is "Refers to any question related to the application of laws in aviation." This is not the application of laws in aviation, this is about liability for an accident. This isn't any different than a Mexican registered bus travelling a road/city in Mexico that the US Government says is dangerous and asking if the Mexican travel company is liable, exactly the same with the word "airplane" replaced with "bus". $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jan 10, 2020 at 13:03

3 Answers 3


Safe is a relative term.

The streets of Tehran are probably safe enough for most Iranians, but if you were an American in jeans and cowboy boots, sporting a red MAGA hat and wearing a US flag T-shirt it might be a different story.

Similarly a US flagged carrier could be at more risk than a regional Middle Eastern Airline.

The FAA does not dictate policy to the rest of the world and it would ultimately be up to a court of law to decide if there was negligence in the event of an incident leading to lawsuits.


Responsible is a vague term and airlines that operate from a given jurisdiction are not necessarily liable to comply with relations of another jurisdiction unless they enter it.

The most recent and fairly clear example of this was the recent groundings of the 737 Max series which did not all occur at the same time. After China grounded the FAA publicly reaffirmed the airworthiness of the aircraft although it ultimately grounded it not too long after.

Declaring an airspace as "unsafe" may also be more relevant to the country making the declaration than to aircraft from other countries. There is the potential for a fair bit of geo politics to play into all this.

In the reverse case under FAA regulations a PIC could be held responsible for entering a dangerous airspace they knew to be dangerous before the flight under FAA FAR 91.13 but that is a catch all and has some fairly wide latitude in terms of enforcement. Other countries may have similar regulations this varies by governing body.


Airlines from countries other than the USA aren't required to abide by US law when not operating inside the USA.

So an airline flying over Iran that isn't a US registered company isn't bound by FAA rules UNLESS their country of origin chooses to itself issue a regulation that copies that FAA rule (or a regulation that states that all FAA rules are to be complied with).

Many countries will generally follow the FAA when it comes to safety regulations and sometimes other things, but that often takes some time and is far from universal.

And of course in the shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner over Iran it was an aircraft on a direct flight between Iran and Ukraine, an airline that was probably in Iran at the time the FAA decided to ban overflight for US owned aircraft.


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