Malaysia Airlines' Communications About MH17

After harsh criticism of Malaysia Airlines' communications when MH370 disappeared, the airline may be under a microscope for how it handles the recent tragedy, MH17 shot down over eastern Ukraine. The company's home page has this simple message:  

Malaysia 1


Following a link to "Latest Updates on Flight MH17" brings this media statement:

Friday, July 18, 08:20 PM GMT +0800 Media Statement 4 : MH17 Incident

Media Statement 4: MH17 Incident

1.    Flight plan

MH17's flight plan was approved by Eurocontrol, who are solely responsible for determining civil aircraft flight paths over European airspace. Eurocontrol is the air navigation service provider for Europe and is governed under ICAO rules.

The route over Ukrainian airspace where the incident occurred is commonly used for Europe to Asia flights. A flight from a different carrier was on the same route at the time of the MH17 incident, as were a number of other flights from other carriers in the days and weeks before. Eurocontrol maintains records of all flights across European airspace, including those across Ukraine.

In April, the International Civil Aviation Organization identified an area over the Crimean peninsula as risky. At no point did MH17 fly into, or request to fly into, this area. At all times, MH17 was in airspace approved by the ICAO.

2.    Altitude

MH17 filed a flight plan requesting to fly at 35,000ft throughout Ukrainian airspace. This is close to the ‘optimum' altitude.

However, an aircraft's altitude in flight is determined by air traffic control on the ground. Upon entering Ukrainian airspace, MH17 was instructed by Ukrainian air traffic control to fly at 33,000ft.

3.    Nationalities

Following this afternoon's press conference, Malaysia Airlines can confirm that a further 16 passengers' nationalities have been verified. The latest breakdown of nationalities of those on board the flight is as follows:

·         189 Netherlands

·         44 Malaysia

·         27 Australia

·         12 Indonensia

·         9 UK

·         4 Belgium

·         4 Germany

·         3 Philippines

·         1 Canada

·         1 New Zealand

Four passengers' nationalities remain to be verified.

4.    New flight route

Following this incident, Malaysia Airlines now avoids Ukrainian airspace entirely, flying further south over Turkey.  


Friday, July 18, 06:40 PM GMT +0800 Cargo Manifest and Airway Bill for MH17 

Discussion Starters:

  • Who are the audiences for Malaysia Airlines' communications?
  • What's your view of the simple posting on the airlines' homepage?
  • The statement, above, certainly gives the facts, but should it include some emotional appeal as well? What is appropriate at this point?
  • What other communications do you think we'll see from the airline? What do you think the public expects to see?
  • What are the similarities and differences in MH370 and this situation? How should this background influence how the airline executives should handle their communications? 
  • What can the airline executives learn from their experience with MH370?