MH17 crash: Airlines divert flights from eastern Ukraine

Flight MH17 leaving Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, 17 July Flight MH17 leaving Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, on Thursday afternoon

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European flight safety body Eurocontrol says Ukrainian authorities have closed the airspace in the east of the country to all airline flights.

It said all flight plans that use routes in the area are being rejected.

It follows the crash of Malaysian airliner flight MH17 with 298 people on board, amid claims it was shot down.

Flights already airborne are being routed around the area by air traffic control in the region, a Department for Transport spokesperson said.

However, some airlines in the last week including British Airways and Air France had already altered their flight paths to avoid Ukraine.

British Airways said its flights did not use Ukrainian airspace, with the exception of a once-a-day service between Heathrow and Kiev.

A spokesman for BA said they were keeping those services under review, but that "Kiev is several hundred kilometres from the incident site".

Flight MH17 was on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it came down near the village of Grabovo.

'Immediate measures'

The European Cockpit Association (ECA), which represents more than 38,000 European pilots, said the route flown by the crashed Malaysian aircraft was "the most common route for flights from Europe to South East Asia."

Airline Emirates said its flight EK171 from Dubai to Kiev had returned to Dubai "due to the safety concerns raised with the latest reports on Malaysian flight MH17".

It added that its flights to Kiev were suspended "with immediate effect, till further notice".

Map

The airline said its flights to and from the US and other European destinations used a different route and were outside the zone where the incident involving MH17 occurred.

Meanwhile, US carriers have also agreed to avoid flying through airspace near Russia's border with Ukraine. the Federal Aviation Administration said.

'Safety priority'

German airline Lufthansa said it had decided to "fly a wide detour around east Ukrainian airspace with immediate effect".

"The safety of our passengers is our top priority," a spokesperson added.

Similarly, Virgin Atlantic On Thursday had rerouted "a small number" of its flights.

South Korea's two major airlines - Korean Air Lines and Asiana Airlines - said that they had stopped flying over Ukraine air space since 3 March because of security concerns.

Abu Dhabi based Etihad said it was unaffected as its planes didn't fly over the space.

Map showing flight density over eastern Ukraine on 16-17 July
Selected flights over east Ukraine on the afternoon of 17 July
Selected flights over eastern Ukraine, 17 July

Dutch carrier KLM said that as a precautionary measure it already avoided flying over the concerned territory.

Turkish Airlines has said all of its flights would avoid Ukrainian airspace, while Italy's Alitalia and Air France said they would divert their flights away from eastern Ukrainian airspace.

France's junior transport minister Frederic Cuvillier said he had told "French airlines to avoid Ukraine's air space as long as the reasons behind this catastrophe are not known."

Flight MH17 had been due to enter Russian airspace when contact was lost.

Both the Ukrainian government and rebels have denied shooting it down in the region close to the Russian border.

Eurocontrol said the aircraft had been flying at Flight Level 330 (approximately 10,000 metres/33,000 feet) when it disappeared from the radar.

This route had been closed by the Ukrainian authorities from ground to flight level 320 but had been open at the height level at which the aircraft was flying.

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