TORONTO — As shock turns to condemnation and the downing of MH17 increasingly becomes a political issue, the aviation industry is rallying behind Malaysia Airlines.
“No airline will risk the safety of their passengers, crew and aircraft for the sake of fuel savings. Airlines depend on governments and air traffic control authorities to advise which air space is available for flight, and they plan within those limits,” said IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler.
“It is very similar to driving a car. If the road is open, you assume that it is safe. If it’s closed you find an alternate route. At this time, it is important we are very clear: safety is the top priority.”
What happened with MH 17 “is a tragedy for 298 souls that should not have happened in any airspace,” Tyler added.
MH17’s flight plan was approved by Eurocontrol, who are responsible for determining civil aircraft flight paths over European airspace.
Malaysia Airlines notes that the route over Ukrainian airspace where the incident occurred is commonly used for Europe to Asia flights and reports that 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.
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, said the carrier. At all times, MH17 was in airspace approved by the ICAO, says the airline. Malaysia Airlines is now avoiding Ukrainian airspace entirely, flying further south over Turkey.
Malaysia Airlines has been providing families of MH17 passengers with hotel accommodation, meals and transport assistance.
The airline is working alongside KLM, who has been assisting it in supporting the family members from the outset.
Malaysia Airlines is also offering a financial assistance of US$5,000 to the families of each passenger. The financial assistance will not be offset against the final compensation nor affect the families’ legal rights to claim.