U.S. Airlines To Avoid Ukraine Airspace After Malaysian Airline Flight MH17 Crash

Posted: Jul 17 2014, 3:50pm CDT | by , Updated: Jul 17 2014, 3:55pm CDT, in News | Latest Political News

U.S. Airlines To Avoid Ukraine Airspace After Malaysian Airline Flight MH17 Crash
Photo Credit: Getty Images

After Malaysian Airline MH17 was shot down near Donetsk, Ukraine, U.S. airline carriers scrambled to find new flight plans and procedures.

Boeing 777 jet Malaysian Airlines MH17 was shot down about 25 miles from Donetsk, Ukraine. The aggressive action has nations scrambling to see the passenger list and to assess personal damage to possible citizens.

Former assertions flying 33,000 feet in the air should have provided a path out of conflict zone between the Ukrainian government and rebels were clearly wrong.

Now, due to the obviously unsafe airspace, airlines have quickly reassessed flight patterns and plans. Ben Mutzabaugh of USA Today has a fairly updated list of carriers unwilling to fly near the eastern border of the Ukraine in "Airlines leery of military hot spots following MH17."

Atlanta-based Delta will be "avoiding airspace over tense areas near Ukraine's eastern border with Russia." And Delta was the first to state even with a limited previous presence, the company would avoid the Ukraine entirely.

According to Mutzabaugh, “all U.S. carriers are obliged to follow any prohibitions issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.” This was implemented earlier this year when U.S. airlines were prohibited from flying in Crimea—though that restriction was based on air traffic control trouble instead of military action.

Delta’s news matches Europe's biggest carrier, Lufthansa. "The safety of our passengers is our top priority.” However, a major difference is based on the company’s fly zone. “A total of four flights are affected today. Presently no restrictions apply to the Lufthansa destinations Kiev and Odessa."

Decisions to fly over the eastern border were based on the fact "there has been no closure of Ukrainian airspace," but that has clearly changed as the German carrier decided "to fly wide detour around east Ukrainian airspace with immediate effect."

Other international carriers, such as Air France and Russia's Aerofloat, will avoid eastern Ukraine for the time being.

Dubai-based Emirates said service to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, has been suspended—even though Kiev is located on the Western side of the country KLM, a Dutch airline carrier will follow along with the rest of the world after expressing "great regret" and sympathy for the victims of the flight, along with their families. “As a precautionary measure KLM avoids flying over the concerned territory”—implying a company standard for all areas of conflict.

USA Today contacted aviation analyst Robert Mann to discuss precedence and background to such decisions.

A former employee for now defunct Tower Air, Mann pointed out the company decided "it was the judgment of the company" to avoid Iran in the 1990s. "It just wasn't a good place to be." The New York based airline made a hard line decision to eat the fuel cost and time spent in air based on the safety of crew and passengers. "We chose to fly around it and that was that."

Yet the same company made a decision to fly into Tel Aviv during the Gulf War, "when everybody else had abandoned it."

Mann points out that if the FAA hasn't prevented an action, it's okay to use internal judgment. Sometimes it works out. Looking towards tomorrow's actions, he offers a pragmatic view about using a judgment call for fights going in, out, and around the Ukraine region. "I suspect that's what people will be doing tomorrow."

Judging by the comments of major airlines already, he might just be right. International companies are making those hard line decisions quickly.

Source: USA Today

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