Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) controversial decision to limit baggage on its flights to Europe is believed to be due to the airline flying a longer route compared to its competitors.
London-based weekly The Economist said MAS, having suffered the shooting down of one of its aircraft over eastern Ukraine in 2014, is “well-versed in the importance of safe routes”.
Investigation of recent and historical flight-path data had highlighted a considerable difference in MAS’ chosen routes compared with airlines such as Singapore Airlines, British Airways and KLM.
Most of the flights take a shorter path over Iran, Turkey, the Black Sea and Russia or Hungary, avoiding Ukraine completely.
MAS had mostly followed suit until Nov 25, but had chosen to fly over parts of Ukraine ( chart ).
Since then, however, MAS had taken the southern path over Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Mediterranean.
As a result of this longer southern corridor, the distance between Kuala Lumpur and Amsterdam increased to nearly 7,000 miles, alarmingly close to the Boeing 777-200ER’s maximum range.
“Hence, the unseasonable headwinds have forced it to lighten the payload," stated The Economist .
MAS’ Paris and Amsterdam flights are served by the Boeing 777-200ER, which has a shorter range of 7,065 nautical miles compared to its London flights. That route is served by the Airbus A380s, which have a range of around 8,500 nautical miles.
After the airline announced the move earlier this week, it has however confirmed yesterday that normal check-in baggage allowances have since been restored on all flights across its network including services to Amsterdam, London and Paris.
A check with Flightradar24, a website which tracks all commercial flights, shows MH16 flight to Amsterdam which departed from Kuala Lumpur late yesterday used the previous shorter route over Iran .
Malaysiakini has contacted MAS for a response.
Aviation analysts had earlier described MAS’ move to limit baggage on its flights to Europe due to strong headwinds as "baffling" and "bizarre".
According to AFP, analysts said if this were true, then it would affect all other airlines from the region that are flying to Europe.
It’s been a traumatic couple of years for the airline. Its MH370 disappeared while on route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014, along with 227 passengers and 12 cabin crew.
Four months later, MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.