Airlines and Aviation
Five months after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 goes missing, the Malaysian flag carrier is hit by yet another calamity: a Boeing 777 with 283 passengers and 15 crew is shot down over Ukrainian air space.
Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific Airways as well as Korea’s Asiana Airlines, Korean Air, Pakistan International Airlines, and Taiwan’s China Airlines are among Asian air carriers that stopped flying over Ukrainian airspace several months ago – despite the fact that this would lead to longer flight times and higher fuel costs.
Air Berlin and Qantas are among other international airlines that have been giving the troubled region’s air space a wide berth, as well.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), meanwhile, issued a Notice to Airmen, or NOTAM, in April that prohibited US aircraft from flying in air space over the Crimean region of Ukraine as well as parts of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov. The area was expanded after the tragic event that occurred on Thursday.
So why did Malaysia Airlines not follow suit? The airline issued the following statement on its website:
“MH17’s flight plan was approved by Eurocontrol, who are solely responsible for determining civil aircraft flight paths over European airspace. Eurocontrol is the air navigation service provider for Europe and is governed under ICAO rules.
“The route over Ukrainian airspace where the incident occurred is commonly used for Europe to Asia flights. A flight from a different carrier was on the same route at the time of the MH17 incident, as were a number of other flights from other carriers in the days and weeks before. Eurocontrol maintains records of all flights across European airspace, including those across Ukraine.
“In April, the International Civil Aviation Organization identified an area over the Crimean peninsula as risky. At no point did MH17 fly into, or request to fly into, this area. At all times, MH17 was in airspace approved by the ICAO.”
And Malaysia Airlines was, in fact, not alone. Air China, Air India, Chinese Eastern Airlines, and Thai Airways are among Asian airlines that – along with the Malaysian airline – continued to fly over Ukrainian air space in recent months.
And rumour has it that several European airlines were doing the same.
It’s been a bad year for Malaysia Airlines.
First an airliner disappears without a trace. And now one of its airliners get shot down for reasons that are still not known.
With tough competition from discount carriers such as Air Asia, which is also based in Malaysia, can the troubled airline possibly weather this current storm?