MH17 crash: Union wants MAS to stop flying over Syrian airspace

MH17 crash: Union wants MAS to stop flying over Syrian airspace

PETALING JAYA - A union representing Malaysia Airlines cabin crew members wants the national carrier to stop flying over Syria, citing safety concerns.

The union is opposed to the use of the route even though it is an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) approved route.

Since the downing of MH17, which had resulted in all flights being diverted from Ukrainian airspace, Malaysia Airlines had flown twice over Syria, based on checks with flight tracking website Flightradar24.

The first incident took place on July 18 involving MH16 from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam, while the second was on July 20 involving MH4 from London to Kuala Lumpur, according to data from the website.

All other Malaysia Airline's daily flights on its London and Amsterdam routes have, since the MH17 tragedy, flown over Iran and Turkey instead of Syria and Ukraine.

Malaysia Airlines was also criticised in media reports on July 21 after Flightradar24 tweeted that MH4 had flown over Syrian airspace.

In response, the national airline issued a statement saying that its flight plan over Syria had been endorsed by the ICAO and MH4 had at all times flown in airspace which the agency had approved.

In a statement to Malaysia Airlines, president of the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam) Ismail Nasaruddin said it was "disturbing" to learn that the flight had been given approval by ICAO.

"Since crew members have stated their concerns about flying over this airspace, we would like to know if MAS can guarantee this flight path is safe.

The ICAO, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that it had issued a letter to all its member countries reminding them of their responsibilities with respect to the safety and security of civilian flights in their airspace.

The ICAO, which is the United Nations civil aviation agency, said that this was needed in light of some confusion that had arisen over the responsibilities each country held, an issue that is increasingly being discussed following the loss of MH17.

In its statement, the aviation agency reiterated that it was the responsibility of countries to warn others of any hazards to civilian aircraft in their airspace.

Reuters, meanwhile, reported that ICAO was planning to hold an international meeting next week in Montreal, Canada, to discuss airline safety amid calls for action to prevent a repeat of the MH17 incident.

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