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I was looking at some flight paths, and I noticed that while some airspaces are ignored by planes for "obvious" reasons, like the Ukraine - Russian border airspace.CPH BKK Flight ignoring Ukraine airspace

For example, this flight seems to purposely ignore the Ukraine airspace.

But on the other hand, I found some flight which are not ignoring airspaces which should probably be ignored. Like planes flying over Syrian airspace or over Yemen. These places too are war zones and might have militant groups capable of repeating something like MH-17.

This made me wonder as to who decides what airspaces to not fly over, and what are the criteria to do so?

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One major driving factor is whether a permit is required. Many countries in the world require a permit even for overflight.

enter image description here (source)

Depending on country to country, airline to country and general relations it may be more advantageous for a carrier to get permits in one country than it would be in a close neighbor. Going a bit out of the way (burning extra fuel ultimately) may be less costly than delays related to permit issues, etc.

In some cases there are also prohibited airspaces within a country. This is simply airspace you cant fly over for regulatory reasons (generally security). While some of these airspaces are small, some areas can be quite large in size.

While increasingly a smaller case not all aircraft are equipped to fly through all airspaces. Different regulating bodies may require different gear on board for a given flight. Aircraft may be prevented from entering a given airspace if not properly equipped or certified.

On any given day routes may be amended for weather or potential weather hazards.

As @mins notes in the comments, this answer covers areas avoided for safety reasons.

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    $\begingroup$ In your map, which areas require a permit? What do the different shades of yellow indicate? $\endgroup$ – Daniele Procida Jan 16 '18 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ @DanieleProcida if you navigate to the source link you can hover over each area and see the requirements. $\endgroup$ – Dave Jan 17 '18 at 3:00
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If there is a large sporting event, or festival, they will limit air traffic around that area. They do this for safety in case an aircraft attempts. A government based aviation regulatory agency would determine where to fly and not fly. If you are flying over a war zone, that would be up to the management of the airline to determine that. Let me know if you want me to add on. Hope this helps, Charlie :)

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In addition to permits, some countries simply don't allow planes registered in certain other countries to overfly them, period. Conversrly, some countries dont allow their own planes to overfly certain other countries, even if those countries are okay with it. Some countries may allow aircraft to overfly but not land, even in an emergency, which is also problematic since it may be impossible to reach a safe country depending on the emergency. All of those are very common in the Middle East, even absent an actual war. War zones are generally unsafe for anyone to fly in, though that doesn't stop some carriers from doing it anyway--and occasionally getting shot down.

Besides safety, there is also the issue of fees. Many countries gouge airlines to the point it's cheaper to take a longer route around them or at least minimize the time/distance over them. For instance, US domestic routes are adjusted south to only overfly southern Ontario rather than take the great circle route that would spend more (very expensive) time over Canada.

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