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How much will the MAS Ukraine disaster affect travel?

July 22, 2014 Aviation, Headline News 2 Comments Email Email

egtmedia59This week will reveal the extent to which bookings for long-haul air travel from Australia have been affected by last week’s shocking air disaster over Ukraine, which saw Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

Agents reported cancellations coming in for MAS flights over the weekend. It seems that after the mysterious disappearance of flight MH370 back in March, many consumers adopted a “lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place” attitude to booking with MAS – but the loss of another wide-body aircraft by the same airline in a short time is another matter.

Shares in the carrier dropped 11% following the crash of flight MH17.

Questions are being asked about whether Malaysia Airlines can now survive, the BBC reported at the weekend.

“Even if this is pure coincidence, it’s never happened in history that a flag carrier has seen two wide-body aircraft disappearing in a few months,” Bertrand Grabowski, head of aviation at DVB Bank, which acts as a banker to Malaysia Airlines, commented.

“The support from the [Malaysian] government needs to be more explicit and perhaps more massive,” Grabowski added.

For air travel generally, the tragedy is likely eventually to result in a tightening of rules governing flight paths over the world’s crisis zones. Whether it changes public taste for air travel depends on whether more missile systems capable of shooting down planes get into the hands of bandits or terrorists.

The surface-to-air missile technology which brought down MH370 is not new, so neither is the threat. The model of BUK missile system used is believed to date from the Soviet era and have a range of about 22 kilometres. That extends far beyond the maximum height of any civilian airliner.

Although a dreadful atrocity with major loss of life, MH17 is not the first civilian plane to have been shot down. Such tragic events have happened a number of times – although they are still extremely rare.

Previously, the most notorious shoot-down incident involving a large wide-bodied airliner, with loss of life comparable to last week’s MH17 disaster, was Korean Air Lines flight 007. A Soviet fighter jet shot down that civilian airliner, a B747, on 1 September 1983, after the Korean airliner strayed into Russian airspace near a sensitive military zone and did not respond when challenged. All 269 passengers and crew on KL007 died after the fighter jet fired a missile into the airliner.

Neither is MH17 the first time a surface-to-air missile has been used to shoot down a civilian airliner. Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870 crashed in the Tyrrhenian Sea on 27 June 1980 shortly after takeoff from Bologna, Italy. Overwhelming evidence that the flight was brought down by a missile was eventually confirmed by Italy’s top criminal court. The plane was a DC-9 and 81 people died.

In 1988, Iran Air Flight 655 (IR655) was flying from Bandar Abbas in Iran to Dubai. The plane, an Airbus A300, was shot down by the US Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes. The ship fired a surface-to-air missile, hitting the plane and killing all 290 people aboard, including 66 children and 16 crew.  Tension between the US and Iran was at its height and USS Vincennes apparently mistook the A300 for an attacking Iranian F-14 fighter jet.

It’s worth noting that those incidents occurred over the sea. The latest horror, over land in a war zone, with subsequent difficulties in reaching the bodies, has produced even worse publicity. Many of the victims are Australian, and they include children.

The MH17 tragedy may well have some sort of short-term impact on long-haul bookings, with would-be travellers over the next few weeks likely to be more wary about which areas of the world they are flying over.

Australian travellers are a resilient lot, however, and agents agree that any bookings slowdown will almost certainly be temporary.

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Andrew Stewart says:

    Why do you media stir up trouble?

    MH 370 remains a mystery

    MH 017 is an act of flagrant terrorism, albeit extremely sad that it was an MH aircraft and not one of the many others using this flight corridor around the same time.

    Report the truth and CALM the concerns of travellers rather than aggravate them.

    AS

  2. Mark C says:

    In 1996 TWA flight 800 went down shortly after departing New York. Several eyewitnesses reported seeing a missile streaking towards the doomed aircraft that the investigation chose to ignore. US navy craft were in the area at the time.The official accident investigation was regarded by many as a cover up.Why else would you discount eyewitness reports ? 230 souls perished.

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