I’m deeply saddened by MH17. I haven’t gotten over MH370 yet, and I can’t imagine how all at MAS, people flying it, and everyone involved react to all of this — 2 tragedies within 6 months is truly unprecedented. This is a long piece but just remember: This is not the fault of MAS. Stop blaming them. The plane was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Why do I care? People that know me, know that I’m up in the air all the time. For those that don’t know me, last year I took over 12 trips around the Earth, and the year before that over 18 trips around the Earth (circumference of earth = 24,901 miles = 40,075 km). I’ve been doing this since about 2003, though nowadays I fly less – I just spend a lot longer at destinations.
People that know me also know I’m no big fan of our national flag carrier, MAS. I swore off them sometime in 2003 (becoming a SQ Gold loyalist then; and also a CX Diamond in 2012), and tried them again for a few legs in 2013 (London, Paris, Bali, Hong Kong, Singapore, Phnom Penh) as they joined OneWorld. I told myself that service still hadn’t improved (yes, they’re great – but when you compare them to Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines, there’s not much left to say).
That said, I’m a proud Malaysian. I will not forget where I was when I first heard the news about MH370 – I woke up at the Hyatt Regency Yogyakarta and was told of what had happened that Saturday morning. Messages started streaming in from worried folk all thru that week. I followed closely to see what was happening to MH370 over the entire search period, and sad to say the handling of everything was just poor – typical of the mediocre leadership in Malaysia. I still stand that the DCA chief, MAS CEO and Hishamuddin Hussein need to resign. It took weeks to release the cargo manifests, there was so much misinformation, so much confusion, and overall, it just put Malaysia and MAS in a really bad light.
Not over MH370 (we still have no idea what has happened or where the plane has ended) we are hit with MH17 (I landed in a Cathay Pacific plane in Los Angeles after radio silence for about 14 hours to text messages asking if I was ok – so turned on roaming data immediately to find out what happened in plane). MH17 is different: it is an act of terror. It is clear that MAS is not at fault at all. It was shot down.
However people are looking to appropriate blame – especially after MH370. Detractors (typically Malaysian’s angry with the current government, or “ex-Malaysians” who are now part of our diaspora) question why Malaysia Airlines flew over Ukranian airspace knowing that it was unsafe. Detractors wonder if ailing MAS was trying to save money by using the shorter route.
Here’s some news for you: MAS wasn’t the only airline using said airspace. Over 400 flights per day travel over that region including passenger jets from KLM, Lufthansa, Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Air India. There are probably a lot more airlines that used said airspace (does anyone have a complete list?). British Airways and Qantas have changed route plans previously. Remember that this isn’t just for routes that do AMS-KUL, but also for routes that are like SIN-LHR and so forth. I’ve been flying over this airspace for a long time…
This data is all open nowadays (FT also has a good article: Downed Malaysian Airlines jet was travelling outside no-fly zone). Just ask FlightRadar24. Look at some of the graphics coming out of the NYT (very useful to understand that MH17 wasn’t doing anything wrong).
Yes, the FAA had issued warnings in April 2014. Eurocontrol said it was safe as long as people flew above 32,000ft. So the airspace was restricted but not closed. Operations departments at many airlines (MAS included) chart paths that are most optimum – this is what happened here.
Lufthansa defended its decisionto fly over this airspace:
“Every airline selects the routes that are the most energy efficient and which offer the shortest flight time, but we would never make a trade off between operational safety and cost”
In hindsight (everything is always clearer isn’t it?), people can say that aviators can refuse to fly said routes or ask the operations departments to re-route around conflict zones. Sure. That’s what everyone has done after MH17. But before, many commercial airlines were happily using this route.
Its appalling that airlines try to claim they’re safe and weren’t using the route before. Offenders include (read the thread):
Who then admitted to being wrong, and posting a corrected tweet (i.e. they don’t currently fly over Ukranian airspace).
Singapore Airlines says they’re not using Ukranian airspace any longer (read the thread).
MAS its time to learn to be better – and comebacks are the best – Singapore Airlines made a comeback from their tragic 2000 incident – SQ006. Let’s not forget the 1997 SilkAir 185 incident.
MAS, don’t give up. People, don’t give up on MAS (MH17 was at full capacity probably due to fare cuts). I’m going to try to change some routes to take on more MH flights to support the local carrier. Malaysia needs a local carrier — and that carrier is MAS. Godspeed.