Airlines Rush To Evacuate, Avoid Ukrainian Airspace

Lauren Burgoon
The FAA banned U.S. flights from certain spots in Ukraine months ago -- but not where the Malaysia Airlines flight fell.

Amid suspicions a Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down over a chaotic region of Ukraine, airlines are rushing to assure passengers they won't fly over the embattled country.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration warned American pilots months ago not to fly over parts of Ukraine, which has been embroiled in battles with Russia and separatists for months. 

The April 23 warning read, in part:

"Due to the potential for conflicting air traffic control (ATC) instructions from Ukrainian and Russian authorities and for the related potential misidentification of civil aircraft, United States (U.S.) flight operations are prohibited until further notice in the airspace over Crimea, the Black Sea, and the Sea of Azov."

The crashed plane was not flying over any of the areas mentioned.

Several hours after the crash, the FAA said U.S. carriers agreed not to use airspace near the Ukraine-Russia border. The FAA then expanded its prohibition on U.S. flights using airspace over eastern Ukraine until further notice.  

It's not unusual for planes to fly over conflict zones, the Washington Post reports. The Malaysia Airlines flight, for example, would have continued over Iran and Afghanistan. 

Indeed, it's nearly impossible to avoid every conflict zone in the world. This video shows paths European flights take on a typical summer day:

It's unclear what happened to the Malaysia Airlines flight over Russia. Ukrainian officials are blaming separatists for shooting a ground-to-air missile; separatists deny they have the weaponry necessary to shoot down a plane at altitude.