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Will Route Deviations Around Ukraine Lead to Longer Flights?

There are countless unanswered questions surrounding the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. For flyers getting on a plane in the near future, however, a common concern is whether the tragic jet strike will directly affect passengers’ travel plans.

The short answer: It probably won’t.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was traveling over eastern Ukraine, in air space that had been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and international aviation authorities for commercial flights, when it was reportedly shot down without warning on Thursday. Flying from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam, the Boeing 777 airliner was moving through Ukrainian airspace used commonly for Asia- and Europe-bound flights. The route was an active commercial space for airliners traveling at high altitudes. Shortly after the plane went down, however, many airlines rerouted their planes completely away from Ukranian airspace.

Further, the FAA quickly released an order banning U.S. flight operations above the part of eastern Ukraine where Flight 17 crashed. According to the agency, “No scheduled U.S. airlines are currently flying routes through this airspace.”

So flyers shouldn’t worry about commercial flights following the route where Flight 17 was shot down. And those passengers booked on diverted flights will, most likely, not notice a thing. Any route deviations shouldn’t add more than a negligible amount of time to flight itineraries.

Additionally, passengers booked on Malaysia Airlines flights who are uneasy about traveling with the carrier can change their plans for free. In a statement posted on the airline’s website, Malaysia Airlines said it would waive change fees for travelers booked on any MH flights; you can read the notice here. Travelers must rebook or cancel their flights by July 24.

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