TAIPEI (Reuters) - North Korea’s missile tests, conducted without precise prior notice, are a concern for airlines operating across the Asia Pacific, prompting them to perform complex risk assessments and change some flight paths, an industry executive said on Tuesday.
Tension on the Korean peninsula has risen sharply in recent months as Pyongyang pursues its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile to hit the United States, firing ballistic missile tests into the Pacific Ocean over Japan.
“The problem with North Korea is they don’t give advance notice. That is a concern. Basically we give it a wide berth all of the time,” Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, told reporters at its annual conference in Taipei.
“The fact that it spreads over, we think about what the likelihood and risk factor is. Everyone does their risk assessment and people’s airline routes reflect that,” he said, adding there have been some cases of flight path changes following reviews.
Growing military missile tests and civil space launches are forcing the airline industry to perform more complex risk assessments about airspace, which became an issue after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by a missile in Ukraine in 2014.
“We talk about conflicted airspace. Your regulator may tell you that you can’t fly within this area (at all). They may say you can only fly above this height. Individual airlines will make their own assessments... It is just complex risk assessment... and the industry is very cautious.”
Herdman said airlines did not receive warnings in time to divert aircraft flight paths when North Korean missile launches were detected by other militaries.
“The military might communicate with each other... They seem to be able to tell us a lot about it after it has happened. But the announcements seem to take a while.”
Reporting by Jamie Freed, Writing by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Nick Macfie