Airlines divert from Ukrainian airspace after Malaysia Airlines crash

Airlines have been instructed to stay out of Ukrainian airspace after a Malaysian Airlines plane with almost 300 people on board crashed near the Russian border, reportedly after being shot down.

The European Cockpit Association, which represents 38,000 pilots who fly for various European airlines, said the route taken by the Malaysian jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur is the “usual” route taken by most European airlines going to southeast Asia.

Following the disaster, the agency issued a statement calling on “European authorities to take immediate measures to secure all the flights overflying that region.”

The Federal Aviation Administration also issued a notice to pilots of U.S. air carriers to avoid the route.

Air France subsequently stated that it will avoid Ukrainian airspace and Russian airline Aeroflot also says it is avoiding Ukrainian air space.

Luxury airline Emirates had a flight, EK171, en route from Dubai to Kyiv when the Malaysian flight went down, and would have been going through the same air space a little after the Malaysian plane went down. The plane was ordered to return to Dubai mid-flight on Thursday. 

“Our flights to Kyiv are suspended with immediate effect, till further notice,” the airline said in a statement. “The safety of our customers and crew is paramount, and we will continue to monitor the situation carefully.”

Emirates says its flights to and from the U.S. and other European destinations fly a much different route and as such are not affected. Emirates had previously decided to cancel all flights between the two cities starting Aug. 1, citing “

“political uncertainty in the Ukraine which has resulted in weakened demand”

No-fly warnings

The Federal Aviation Administration warned U.S. pilots earlier this year not to fly over portions of the Ukraine in the Crimea region, according to notices posted on the agency’s website.

But that warning came in April, and as of 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, there was no specific update from the FAA instructing North American pilots to avoid the specific region in which the jet went down.

When asked for comment, Air Canada said it has been avoiding the area even before the crash. Angela Mah, a spokeswoman for Air Canada, said the airline had been “proactively” avoiding that airspace for some time.

“We do not foresee any impact on our passengers,” she said in an email to CBC. 


A map showing approximately where Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 went down in the eastern region of Donetsk near the Ukraine-Russia border. (CBC)

The uncertainty was enough to roil what had been a quiet day on stock markets. The Russian ruble lost almost two per cent of its value against the U.S. dollar, the worst one-day performance in more than a year.

Toronto’s S&P/TSX composite index declined 22 points to 15,204 after hitting record territory yesterday.

U.S. markets, already wary because of further sanctions imposed on Russia yesterday, registered sharp losses with the Dow industrials down 161 points at 16,977. The Nasdaq fell 63 points at 4,363.

“We started the day on an unstable geopolitical situation… then out of the blue you get this tragedy,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York. “The market, we know, doesn’t like uncertainty and that is what it’s facing right now.”

Shares in airline companies were hit especially hard, with the sector losing 1.3 per cent on the NYSE. American Airlines stock fell by four per cent. 

Malaysian Airlines is still trying to recover from the damage to its business from the Flight 370 disappearance in March. Flight 370 had veered off course during a flight to Beijing and is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean far off the western Australian coast.

Its stock has declined 27 per cent this year.  

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