Malaysia Airlines changes route after fatal missile
Malaysia Airlines said Friday that in the wake of the shooting down of one of its passenger jets over Ukraine, it has changed the route its planes will take on flights to and from Europe.
The airline said in a statement on its website that the flights “will be taking alternative routes avoiding the usual route.”
The plane, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, crashed Thursday, killing the 298 people on board Flight 17. American intelligence authorities believe a surface-to-air missile brought the aircraft down but it was not yet clear who fired it.
The Malaysian airliner was flying over airspace that a number of other Asian carriers abandoned months ago because of security concerns.
South Korea’s two main airlines, Korean Air and Asiana, as well as Australia’s Qantas said they all rerouted flights from as early as the beginning of March when Russian troops moved into Crimea.
“We stopped flying over Ukraine because of safety concerns,” Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyo-Min said.
Korean Air re-routed its flights 250 kilometers south of Ukraine “due to the political unrest in the region,” an official for the carrier told Agence France-Presse.
A Qantas spokeswoman said its London to Dubai service used to fly over Ukraine, but the route was changed “several months ago.”
Quizzed as to why Malaysia Airlines had not taken similar precautions, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said earlier Friday that international air authorities had deemed the flight path secure.
“The aircraft’s flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization. And [the] International Air Transportation Association has stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions,” he said.
As many as 100 of those killed on a Malaysia Airlines plane were delegates heading to Australia for a global AIDS conference, unconfirmed reports carried by AFP said Friday.
The Australian broadsheet and the Sydney Morning Herald both said that more than one-third of the nearly 300 who died were AIDS researchers, health workers and activists en route to Melbourne.
The plane came down on Thursday near Ukraine’s border with Russia, close to the regional capital of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, where the separatists rose up against central rule from Kiev in April.
A separatist leader said the talks with Kiev over the investigation were expected to continue on Friday, adding that a three-to-four days ceasefire was being discussed to facilitate the investigation.
Kiev had complained that the separatists prevented Ukrainian officials from reaching the site of the crash. The separatists were later quoted as saying they had found one of the black box flight recorders.