Seoul (AFP) - The downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet over rebel-held eastern Ukraine has raised questions over why the company persisted in flying in conflict-zone airspace that many other Asian carriers had abandoned months ago.
The air corridor over Ukraine has always been a crowded one for flights between Europe and Asia -- particularly Southeast Asia -- and re-routing around the airspace would mean an increase in flight time and fuel costs.
Nevertheless, a number of major Asian airlines, including South Korea's Korean Air and Asiana, Australia's Qantas and Taiwan's China Airlines, said Friday that they had started avoiding the area as much as four months ago, when Russian troops moved into Crimea.
"We stopped flying over Ukraine because of safety concerns," Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyo-Min said.
Korean Air moved its flight paths 250 kilometres (160 miles) south of Ukraine from March 3 "due to the political unrest in the region", an official for the carrier told AFP.
A Qantas spokeswoman said its London to Dubai service used to fly over Ukraine, but the route was changed "several months ago", while Taiwan's China Airlines diverted its flights from April 3.
Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific and Pakistan International Airlines said their flight paths had changed "some time" ago.
Singapore Airlines said it had been using Ukrainian airspace but had "re-routed all our flights" to alternative corridors away from the region.
It was not immediately clear when the route change was put into affect.