Malaysian flights to Europe avoiding conflict zones after MH17 tragedy: senior official

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane is seen from the departure hall at the Hong Kong International Airport, in this June 2, 2011 file photo. Malaysian flights currently fly through Iranian and Turkish airspace to reach destinations in Europe to
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane is seen from the departure hall at the Hong Kong International Airport, in this June 2, 2011 file photo. Malaysian flights currently fly through Iranian and Turkish airspace to reach destinations in Europe to avoid crossing over conflict zones following the MH17 tragedy. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (The Star/Asia News Network): Malaysian flights currently fly through Iranian and Turkish airspace to reach destinations in Europe to avoid crossing over conflict zones following the MH17 tragedy.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in strife-torn eastern Ukrain on July 17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people onboard. Pro-Russian rebels, who have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since April, have been accused of shooting down the plane with a surface-to-air missile, but they deny the allegations.

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi said previous flights to European countries went through Ukrainian airspace but Malaysian aircraft have since avoided any areas of conflict.

"At present, our flights avoid crossing Ukraine and Afghanistan and instead, use the airspace in Iran and Turkey to reach Europe.

"We also work together with international bodies which advise the ministry to avoid such conflict zones," he said during question time in Parliament Monday.

Abdul Aziz was answering a question from Anthony Loke, an opposition MP for Seremban who asked how all nations could contribute updated information on conflict zones as not every country was part of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

To a question from Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, the ruling party MP for Tanjung Malim, Abdul Aziz said the Malaysian government was proposing to the ICAO that flights worldwide be monitored with a real time tracking system.

"With such a system, there can be a more advanced mechanism to avoid future aviation incidents," he said.

Ong had asked the deputy minister if there was a proper and advanced mechanism to ensure accurate information could be communicated to aircraft to avoid incidents like the MH370 and MH17 tragedies.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, with 239 onboard, disappeared after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8 and remains to be found.

"A mechanism should be in place to focus on the cooperation between the Department of Civil Aviation, Defence Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Transport Ministry to prevent such incidents," Ong said.