There is uneasy calm in the air, as airlines flying the nook and crannies of the world have started retracing their routes with severe caution thereby adding to the network of unsafe airspace around the world with some impact on the airlines.
The reason is Russia’s Kogalymavia airline October 31, 2015 plane crash now being connected once again to activities of terrorist.
Kogalymavia airline had on board 224 passengers and crew and crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, shortly after taking off from the holiday resort of Sharm al-Sheikh on its way to Saint Petersburg. All those on board were killed.
Debris from crashed Russian jet lies strewn across the sand at the site of the crash picture from bbc.com
Since 2014, this brings to two, the number of aircraft that is reported to have been brought from the air by terrorists, the first being A Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur which was brought down in a rebel-held area of eastern Ukraine allegedly by a rocket.
All these attacks on aircraft with devastating casualty figures may have caused major airlines to retrace their routes and cut their losses on certain routes as the cliché, airlines are the safest means to fly is now looking being put to the test.
It is a given that there would be a general apathy to flights from and to that region of the world mostly but it will pervade and affect other airlines, as growing security concerns will have an impact on travel but already airlines are elevating fear anyway they can but mostly by announcing route changes which may take longer, burn more fuel and add to operation cost but the idea to safety and they acknowledge that people will prefer to be safe.
The Economics of this may or not account for much but in the gamut it will keep the airline safe and in turn, in business.
Middle Eastern and European airlines as a result of the growing fear of routes and probably apathy by passengers, said they will avoid the area of Egyptian airspace where a Russian plane came down on Saturday.
Gulf airline, Emirates, and its subsidiary flydubai, as well as Air Arabia, said they were rerouting flights around the peninsula where the Russian Metrojet flight crashed soon after takeoff from Sharm el-Sheikh.
Qatar Airways said it has stopped flying over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and even Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways said last Sunday it has changed flight paths to avoid flying over the Sinai.
The precautionary step to avoid the Sinai is likely to add to an already congested Middle East airspace as airlines now navigate their way through a smaller area. Many airlines do not currently fly over Syria, Yemen and parts of Iraq due to the conflicts in those countries.
Lufthansa and Air France-KLM have also decided to stop flying over the peninsula while the risks are assessed after an Islamic militant group claimed to have shot the plane down – a claim that Moscow has so far dismissed.
United Kingdom low cost carrier, easyJet spokesman said its planes were already not flying over the north and central Sinai conflict zone. “As has been the case for some time before yesterday’s (October 31, 2015) incident, easyJet like other UK airlines does not fly over northern and central Sinai, the area of the incident.”
British Airways through a spokesman said: “We do not discuss the details of individual routes but we would not fly a route unless it was safe to do. The safety of our customers is always the number one priority.”
EasyJet said passengers who no longer wanted to fly would be offered either an alternative flight or a voucher. “The safety of our customers and crew is our highest priority,” a spokesman said.
The Metrojet Airbus A321-200 reached 31,000 feet before it crashed and experts have been sceptical that militants in Sinai would have weapons capable of shooting down a plane at such an altitude. Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was flying at 33,000 feet when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014.
There is also a possibility that United States, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will prohibit flights around the Sinai Peninsula where the plane was brought down as it had previously warned that the area is likely hostile.
Advice from the Department of Transport from December 2014 tells airlines to avoid flying below 25,000 feet over northern Sinai. That advice was reissued in September this year.
If this is done it will add to further airspaces that have been blacklisted by the FAA since after Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine last year, US aircraft and some others do not fly over Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and eastern Ukraine. Ethiopia was recently removed from the black list.
According to major reports, before the Russian aircraft crash over the Sinai Peninsula the US had described the area as “potentially hostile.” It posited that flying over the region was not prohibited, but that “all U.S. air carriers and commercial operators … (must) exercise extreme caution during flight operations due to ongoing violence, unrest, security operations and the risk to safety from small-arms, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, anti-aircraft fire and shoulder-fired, manportable air defense systems.”
Reports further have it that only a few routes in the Middle East and North Africa are not affected by warnings or strict prohibitions.
Planes flying from Europe to Asia or the other way have a limited number of options: They can fly over Egypt and then continue their journey via Saudi Arabia. Alternatively, many airlines opt for the shorter route along the Caspian Sea.
This according to experts may lead to some form of congestion on certain air spaces.
This is a list of some air crashes that lost over a 100 lives and are linked to terrorism activities:
Pan Am Flight 103/Lockerbie Boeing 747 killing 270 people on December 21, 1988, a transatlantic flight destroyed in-flight by PETN explosives. Parts of suitcase containing the bomb were recovered with pieces of circuit board of a radio cassette player similar to one concealing a Semtex bomb seized by West German police from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Motive attributed to a number of Middle Eastern terrorist groups. Two Libyan intelligence operatives were committed in connection with the attack.
On 19 September 1989, UTA Flight 772 was downed over Niger by a bomb, killing all 156 passengers and 15 crew members. After investigators obtained a confession from one of those who had loaded the bomb in Brazzaville, France indicted six Libyans, including Abdullah Senussi, brother-in-law of Muammar al-Gaddafi, and deputy head of Libyan intelligence. Libya refused to extradite the six, who were condemned in absentia, but subsequently recognized its responsibility by compensating the families of the victims. The deemed motive of the bomber was revenge against the French for supporting Chad against the expansionist projects of Libya toward Chad.
Avianca Flight 203, a Boeing 727 flying from Bogota to Cali was bombed in on 27 November 1989 killing 107 people plus a possible three on the ground. The bombing was planned by Pablo Escobar of the Medellin drug cartel. The motive was an assassination attempt on presidential candidate César Gaviria Trujillo, but the target was not on the flight.
Philippine Airlines Flight 434 1994 al-Queda test run for Operation Bojinka, in which a passenger was killed and 747 controls seriously damaged by a liquid explosive packed into contact lens solution bottles containing nitroglycerin. Bomb was assembled from parts in hand luggage by Ramzi Yousef, who also built and detonated the WTC 1993 bomb.
Bojinka plot al-Queda plot to destroy several airliners over the Pacific Ocean in 1995 using liquid explosives. Elements of Oplan Bojinka inspired both the September 11 attack and the August 2006 plot to bomb transatlantic flights.
July 2014: A Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashes in a rebel-held area of eastern Ukraine. The head of the Dutch investigation team has said it was hit by a rocket fired from territory held by the pro-Russian rebels. Moscow has argued that it could have been shot down by the Ukrainian military.
October 2015: A plane operated by Russia’s Kogalymavia airline with 224 passengers and crew on board crashes in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, shortly after taking off from the holiday resort of Sharm al-Sheikh on its way to Saint Petersburg. Initial reports indicate all those on board were killed.
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