15 September 2014 at 08.11 GMT
Carriers would have avoided flying over Ukraine long before Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, if information about missiles in the area had been passed on, the boss of Emirates has suggested.
Sir Tim Clark told the BBC there had been evidence of weapons for weeks. But he claimed those in the know didn’t share it with most of the carriers flying across the country.
If the airlines had all been told, he suggests, the industry would probably have by-passed the danger zone. And he added that some carriers did appear to know because they were avoiding the area, but they didn’t share the information.
It is widely believed that a missile downed flight MH17 on July 17, killing all 298 people on board.
Aircraft had been cleared to fly in the area as long as they stayed above a certain height, and a report last week highlighted the fact that three other large passenger jets were in the same area at roughly the same time as the Malaysian flight.
Sir Tim said: “There was evidence that these missiles had been on site, in situ for a number of weeks beforehand.
“Emirates did not know of that fact, and I don’t think many others did. Had we known that, we would probably have reacted in a manner that would have seen a complete avoidance of Ukrainian airspace, probably as an industry.
“We have a concern that information was known by certain stakeholders… and should have been passed… at least to the industry, to the organisations that regulate the industry.
“We understand now that certain carriers were aware of that and had already taken avoidance action.”
British Airways was among several airlines that had been avoiding Ukraine for weeks. But in a recent BBC interview, Willie Walsh, chief executive of parent company International Airlines Group, said that decision was based on information that was publicly available at the time.
Sir Tim is called for an information “clearing house” to be set up, that can warn all airlines if there are any new threats in an area.
Sir Tim also said a “Yes” vote for Scottish independence would heighten the need for a new runway in the south of England. Although he made clear that he didn’t want to get involved in the politics of the decision, he told the BBC:
“Clearly, if they do become independent they will develop their own civil aviation strategies, they will probably develop Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. But therefore there is more impetus required for the remaining parts of the UK to develop their aviation strategy, to fill a gap.”
Like so many others in the business world, the Emirates’ president says that doing nothing is not an option, be it expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick, or even at London mayor Boris Johnson’s preferred location in the Thames Estuary.
After four decades in the business Sir Tim says he’s seen airport expansion plans come and go, but there really does seem to be an urgency to do something this time,
Sir Tim made the point that the UK also needs to grow all of its regional airports, including Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Cardiff, which he described as having great potential.
Sourced from Travel Weekly