Cape Town 120104- Passsengers that were on Emirates flight says they were delayed after the flight could not land at Cape Town Airport.Picture Cindy waxa.Reporter Shante/Cape Times

London - International airline Emirates is to stop flying over Iraq because of the threat of missile strikes from militants.

Company president Sir Tim Clark personally ordered a reroute, saying he is “not comfortable” with the security situation.

The Dubai-based carrier is the first to announce action after the downing of Flight MH17 by a missile over an area of Ukraine held by Russian separatists sparked urgent reviews into routes over conflict zones.

Every day hundreds of jets travelling to holiday destinations such as Dubai fly over northern Iraq, parts of which are controlled by the militant group ISIS. One of the most popular routes takes planes directly over their stronghold of Mosul.

US officials are still investigating whether they have acquired missiles capable of downing a civilian aircraft at 30 000ft or higher.

But Emirates has decided to take action immediately and will reroute flights as soon as possible.

This week major airlines including British Airways, Qatar, Etihad and Qantas were still flying over Iraq. Sir Tim said he believed other carriers would follow suit, but BA refused to comment and Qantas said it had no plans to change routes.

The airline executive said he was “beside myself with rage and anger” after the Malaysia Airlines Boeing was shot down on July 17, with the loss of 298 lives. “From out of this ghastly, hideous mass murder... the airline community are minded to try and improve what they do,” he told The Times.

Alternative routes could take jets across Saudi Arabia and the Red Sea, north over Cairo and into European airspace — adding up to 45 minutes to flight times. - Daily Mail