Air India and Jet Airways have stopped using the Ukrainian airspace following the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner that claimed 298 lives, even as the government said there were no Indian nationals on board the ill-fated aircraft.
Terming as “unfortunate” the loss of lives in the tragedy, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Friday said there was no Indian on board the plane and the government has already asked all Indian airlines not to overfly Ukraine.
All 298 people on board the plane were killed yesterday after the jet was shot down by “terrorists” using a surface- to-air missile over war-torn eastern Ukraine near the Russian border.
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The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had yesterday issued instructions to Air India and Jet Airways, the only Indian carriers that fly to Europe and North America, to avoid Ukrainian airspace while flying to and from destinations in both the continents.
The minister said, “We have to be safe with our citizens… Our citizens are our concern. India has alerted its own airlines Jet or Air India and they are avoiding
Ukraine as of now. We are happy with the information that wehave got that no Indian citizen’s life has been lost.” An Air India official said though they had stopped overflying Ukraine since the conflict escalated three months ago, they would also go by the latest DGCA advisory “to avoid airspace over conflict zone like Ukraine”.
Ukraine airspace is among the busiest as flights connecting Europe and Asia transit through this region. Jet Airways too said it was not operating its flights through the Ukrainian airspace ever since the conflict began in the region.
“Jet Airways would like to assure its guests that none of our flights to and from Europe flew through the Ukrainian airspace ever since the conflict began… We continue to avoid the Ukrainian airspace in the prime interest of the safety of our guests,” Jet said.
There are several routes to go to the US and Europe, though this is considered to be the shortest and hence one of the busiest flight paths.
The diversion caused by the DGCA and other global advisories is likely to increase the costs for airlines operating on this route, including those from India, due to the use of more fuel and higher insurance cover, aviation industry sources said.