Emirates Airline chairman and CEO, Sir Tim Clark has told the Wall Street Journal that the apparent shooting down of Malaysia Airline flight MH17 over the Ukraine on July 17 with the loss of all 298 on board “changes everything” in regards to the safe conduct of international air travel.
“We will no longer rest on the protocols we had in place that we honestly thought were safe,” he said.
Clark’s comments come after IATA Director General Tony Tyler declared in a statement that safety is the organisation’s “top priority” when operating international air routes. Commentators have been critical of IATA and ICAO for not recommending against flying through the airspace as the conflict between the Ukraine and separatist forces escalated in recent months.
“I share the shock and sadness expressed by so many around the world on the terrible loss of MH17,” the IATA statement reads. “At this time, it is important we are very clear: safety is the top priority. 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.”
He added that, “Civil aircraft are not military targets. Governments agreed that in the Chicago Convention. And what happened with MH 17 is a tragedy for 298 souls that should not have happened in any airspace.”
In the wake of the tragedy, Malaysia Airlines has ‘retired’ the MH17 flight number, and has switched to the MH19 coding for services to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.
International air traffic continues to largely avoid Ukrainian airspace, with most west to east traffic from western Europe to Asia following a longer southerly corridor over Hungary, Romania and the Black Sea in recent days. North-South traffic between Moscow and Africa, south-eastern European countries or Turkey has been diverted over central or western Ukraine, or over Russian airspace between the Ukrainian border and Volgograd.