MH17 Malaysia Airlines (MAS) today squashed speculations that its pilots had proposed for alternative routes to avoid the troubled eastern Ukraine region prior to the downing of Flight MH17.
MAS director of operations Izham Ismail said there were never such proposals from its pilots.
"There are rumours on Twitter that pilots have reverted to us that the route (used by MH17) was dangerous - the accusation is false. There were no reports from our pilots," he told a press conference at Sama-Sama Hotel, Sepang this evening.
Izham stressed that safety was paramount for MAS and the route had been ascertained to be safe.
He also dismissed claims that Flight MH17 deviated from its original flight path due to a hurricane.
"The MH17 did not deviate from its flight plan route. There was another flight before that and they also confirmed there was no hurricane," he said.
He also stressed that MAS did not err when Flight MH17 used the route it did.
"For MAS, our threat analysis said it is safe. All airlines conduct their own... I believe we did not make a mistake," he said.
He added that a Thai International and Singapore Airlines aircraft were also in the vicinity around the time of the incident.
Changes in flight altitude
The only thing that differed from originally planned, Izham said, was the flight altitude, he said.
Izham said MAS had requested to fly at 35,000 feet, way above the restricted zone which was from the ground to 32,000 feet but was instructed by the Ukrainian air traffic control to fly at 33,000 feet.
“MAS Flight MH17 planned to fly at 35,000 feet but when at the location, there were other traffic so the air traffic control in Ukraine did not permit us to fly at 35,000 feet,” he said.
"We were given the next altitude which was at 33,000 feet."
Adding on, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai who was also present said MAS had no choice but to comply to the change.
"We have to obey the control tower directive as it was their decision... the airspace is under the air control tower's jurisdiction," he said.
It is not likely that the altitude would have made a difference as the Buk missile system, which is alleged to have been used to shoot down Flight MH17, can reportedly reach up to 72,000 feet - twice the height which the plane was flying.
Liow also quoted a Wall Street Journal report which said the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol), the sole air regulatory body which coordinates and plan air traffic over Europe, had approved 400 commercial flights, including 150 international flight daily over eastern Ukraine prior to the incident.
"Eurocontrol also stated that in the two days before the incident, 75 different airlines flew the same route as MH17," he said.
Liow also appeared to adjust his stance to be in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
ICAO had this morning denied Liow's statement yesterday that it had declared MH17's route safe, stating that identifying any threat is the responsibility of the airlines.
He likened the flight route to a busy highway from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.
"The highway is clear, it is safe. When I am driving from Singapore but half way, the bridge collapse and I am the victim, can you blame me?"