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GCC airlines take safety steps after MH17 tragedy
Expressing deep dismay over the Malaysian Airlines crash, major GCC airlines are taking safety measures to ensure the security of their passengers and aircraft without affecting flight schedules and services.
July 20, 2014 4:21 by Atique Naqvi
Airlines such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, Air Arabia and Etihad Airways have either suspended services or changed their flight routes to avoid the conflict-hit region in and around Ukraine.
On Thursday, a Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and carrying 298 people, crashed in the troubled East Ukraine region. Initial reports suggest the passenger aircraft was hit by surface-to-air missile.
An independent inquiry is yet to confirm the culprit behind the tragedy, while Ukraine, Russian-backed rebels in East Ukraine and even Russia have been accused of shooting down the Malaysian Airlines aircraft.
In the GCC, Dubai’s Emirates airline said in a statement to TRENDS that it already issued a notice earlier this month announcing suspension of flights to Ukrainian capital Kiev from August 1, 2014. The airline, however, suspended all its services to Ukraine on July 19 (Saturday).
Earlier, Emirates said: “Due to the ongoing political uncertainty in Ukraine which has resulted in weakened demand, Emirates will suspend flights to Kiev from August 1, 2014. Emirates’ bookings for travel to Kiev from August 1 have been closed for sale with immediate effect.
“Any passengers who have booked to travel with Emirates after this date will be re-booked for travel on an alternate airline.”
On Friday (July 18), the airline said: “Emirates flight EK171 Dubai-Kiev on July 17 has returned to Dubai due to the safety concerns raised with the latest reports on Malaysian flight MH17. Our flights to Kiev are suspended with immediate effect, till further notice.”
In response to queries, it says: “Emirates flights to and from the United States and other European destinations fly a different route, and are outside the zone where the incident involving MH17 occurred.”
In a brief statement, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways says it has suspended all flights over Ukrainian airspace.
Air Arabia, another UAE airline that flies to four destinations in Russia and two in Ukraine, has suspended services to the region.
Air Arabia spokesperson confirmed to TRENDS: “Air Arabia’s three weekly flights to Kiev in Ukraine were suspended with immediate effect and until further notice, due to safety concerns.”
Qatar Airways tells TRENDS that its aircraft will not fly over Ukrainian airspace until further notice. The statement from the airline says: “The Qatar Airways Group is in deep dismay over the loss of flight MH17. We stand by to support our fellow Oneworld alliance member during this somber time.”
The airline adds: “Currently there are no delays expected as a result of this operational change. Neither inbound flights to Doha nor outbound flights from Doha to destinations that previously included fly zones within Ukraine are expected to face delays.
“We assure all passengers that should there be any action required with regards to current bookings, that they will be notified by the Qatar Airways customer service team members.