Both Korean airlines avoid Ukraine area

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Both Korean airlines avoid Ukraine area

After a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, Korea’s two flag carriers said yesterday they stopped flying through Ukraine’s air space from March after the conflict with Russia picked up.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was brought down in Ukraine near the Russian border on Thursday, and U.S. authorities believed it was shot down by a ground-to-air missile. It is still unclear whether the missile was fired from inside Ukrainian or Russian territory, and who fired it, while Ukraine forces and pro-Russia separatist rebels blamed each other for the attack.

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday it believed there were no Korean passengers on the flight, although it was waiting for Malaysia Airlines to announce a full list of the passengers’ nationalities.

As of press time the nationalities of 18 passengers were not announced.

The ministry said it was working closely with Malaysian and Dutch authorities to check whether there were Korean passengers aboard.

Korean Air Lines, the nation’s largest air carrier, run by Hanjin Group, released a statement yesterday saying that none of their flights had flown through Ukraine’s air zone since March 3, as Russian-backed forces started taking over the Crimean Peninsula.

Originally, the air carrier operated one cargo flight - from Uzbekistan to Italy - flying over Ukraine, but their routes were shifted more than 800 kilometers (497 miles) south since March 3. The cargo flights now fly through Turkey’s air space.

No. 2 player Asiana Airlines, which is run by Kumho Asiana Group, said that it also had one weekly cargo flight flying from Brussels over Ukraine, but since March 3 it has been taking a detour 150 kilometers south.

“Using detour routes increases flying time and costs, but we have been using them for safety’s sake,” Asiana said in a release. “Until the Ukraine situation is resolved, we will keep operating our Brussels cargo flight on a detour route.”

Both airlines said that their passenger jets have never flown over Ukraine as they use routes crossing Northern Russia. However, they said they realized that the shooting down of the Malaysian flight might frighten Korean passengers.

BY joo kyung-don []

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