Why wasn't MH17 prevented by government regulators from flying the route it took?

MH17 wasn't the first case of governments or combatants downing commercial aircraft: Iran Air Flight 655 and Korean Air Lines Flight 007 come to mind.

I find it hard to believe that if an area had an unacceptably high risk for aircraft, that it would be up to the individual airlines to decide not to fly that route, rather than governments being flown over, or the source or destination countries, flat-out forbidding it unless there's no alternative.

Was military aircraft (such as Ukrainian Air Force Ilyushin Il-76 and other incidents mentioned in the Background section of Wikipedia's article on MH17) being shot down in the area a new phenomenon, with regulators not acting fast enough to deal with this new information?

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    $\begingroup$ I think your question would benefit from a rephrasing. The title question is quite broad (and not really well suited for the site as currently phrased), while the final question you have in your body could be made to fit well, but needs polishing (which information, what would have been "fast enough"?). $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Jun 12, 2016 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Federico does it look better now? Or do you still want "fast enough" clarified? $\endgroup$
    – Golden Cuy
    Jul 9, 2016 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ It should be noted that it is still not clear, who was the target.. Other than MH 17, SQ 351 and AI 113 were flying within 25 km of MH 17.. $\endgroup$
    – anshabhi
    Jul 9, 2016 at 16:36

1 Answer 1


The Airlines can decide for them selves which route to take, however the government has an intelligence operation which can predict events that might happen in political unstable regions of the world. However in the case of MH17 it was not the "army" that shot down a plane but an conflict between rebels and the government.

Routes flown to Kuala Lumpur

While the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur from Malaysia airlines have been suspended, one can still retrieve the route flown via flightaware.com:

The KLM flightpath (KL809) 10246km: KLM flight 809 AMS-KUL

The Malaysia Airlines flightpath (MH19) 10855km: Malaysia Airlines flight 19 AMS-KUL

From the plots it can be seen that both Airlines diverted their routes after the accident with MH17. They both avoid Ukrainian airspace.

Would flying these routes prevented the accident? Yes, but at the time intelligence agencies where not aware that the Separatists had acces to such advanced surface-to-air missiles. This also because the nature of the conflict would not suggest that such weapons would be required.

  • $\begingroup$ could you please consider adding more details to your answer? also, how would those plots be relevant? $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Jun 12, 2016 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ Had the downed flight taken either of those paths there would have been no tragedy $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Jun 13, 2016 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ I really, really like your answer including intelligence discussion and an argument about this kind of weapons not being expected or predicted in this area due to nature of conflict. $\endgroup$
    – trejder
    Aug 17, 2016 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ @TomMcW, that is easily said afterwards, during that time the separatist were not seen as a threat to commercial aviation at cruising altitude. Hence we still fly over Iraq. $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2016 at 19:18

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