Airline Industry Associations Meet to Discuss Flying Over Conflict Zones

Airports Council International (ACI), along with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), met at the head offices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal, Canada to discuss appropriate actions that could mitigate potential risks to civil aviation arising from conflict zones. 

The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 has put the spotlight on the risk factors related to civilian flights traveling to, from or over conflict zones. At the meeting, attendees agreed that a task force comprised of States and industry experts will be established to produce possible solutions. Findings will be reported to a special meeting of the ICAO Council. 

RELATED: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17—IATA Calls for Action

Director General of ACI Angela Gittens noted the existing measures in place to maintain safety and security while at the same time noting that, where possible, processes can and should be refined and enhanced. "Despite the tragic events surrounding the downing of flight MH17, it is important to remember that aviation has an excellent safety record; the condemnable actions of those responsible do not change that," she said in a statement. "Nonetheless, there is always room for improvement, specifically when it comes to ensuring that robust intelligence is put in the right hands. 

"ACI and other industry stakeholders will tackle this issue just as we have others in the past—collaboratively and transparently—as we continue to ensure the safety of the traveling public," Gittens added. "Any proposed changes to flight paths necessarily affect airports where slot allocation, fuel uplifts and curfews are concerned. ACI is ready to cooperatively explore effective solutions with ICAO, IATA and CANSO, and today's meeting was a very positive first step in the right direction." 

The event attendees also jointly expressed their "strong condemnation" of the use of weapons against civil aviation:

"The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 is unacceptable. Our organizations wish to convey our deepest condolences to the families of the passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragic event. While aviation is the safest form of transport, the MH17 incident has raised troubling concerns with respect to civilian aircraft operating to, from and over conflict zones.

"We have met at ICAO today with collective resolve to urgently review the issues and potential responses to be pursued. As a first step, States have been reminded by ICAO of their responsibilities to address any potential risks to civil aviation in their airspace.

"We recognize the essential need for information and intelligence that might affect the safety of our passengers and crew. This is a highly complex and politically sensitive area of international coordination, involving not only civil aviation regulations and procedures but also State national security and intelligence gathering activities.

"All parties to the discussion agreed that ICAO now has an important role to play in working as urgently as possible with its Member States, in coordination with the aviation industry and other bodies within the United Nations, to ensure the right information reaches the right people at the right time.

Moving forward ICAO with support of its industry partners will:

* Immediately establish a senior-level Task Force composed of state and industry experts to address the civil aviation and national security aspects of this challenge, in particular how information can be effectively collected and disseminated.
* Submit the Task Force findings as urgently as possible to a Special Meeting of the ICAO Council for action.

Industry has called for ICAO to also address:

* Fail-safe channels for essential threat information to be made available to civil aviation authorities and industry.
* The need to incorporate into international law, through appropriate UN frameworks, measures to govern the design, manufacture and deployment of modern anti-aircraft weaponry.

ICAO is convening a High-level Safety Conference with all of its 191 Member States in February 2015. Industry and governments stand united and committed to ensuring the safety and security of the global air transport system and its users.

Just before the Montreal gathering, Global Business Travel Association Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick issued the following statement:

“The recent attack of the Malaysian airline exposed a significant safety concern on how information regarding potentially dangerous routes is applied...

Corporations send business travelers to every part of the world. Duty of care and risk management is a vital component of today’s business travel.

This incident is a wake-up call: Companies and individual travelers have assumed airlines fly in safe skies, but now must start evaluating flight-path risk as part of their own duty of care responsibilities.

Industry leaders need to step forward and work closely with government intelligence organizations in this dynamically changing environment. Traditional approaches to risk mitigation must be re-evaluated.”