This is a painfully awful blog post to write. But it is, in fact, the most horrific example of the high cost of transactional behavior I have ever seen.
On July 17th, Malaysian Airline flight MH17 was flying over war torn Ukraine. The plane was 300 meters over the restricted zone of 32,000 feet and still within reach of surface to air missiles. Two cargo planes had been shot down by missiles in this area earlier in the week, and British, European, and US commercial flights had been warned to avoid the area months earlier, beginning in April. Malaysian Airlines had also been warned.
But these warnings were advisory warnings, there was nothing compulsory or binding that would have prevented any plane from choosing this flight path should they have wanted to take it, as long as they were above 32,000 feet.
Why take the chance and fly over an area where two planes were just shot down? The answer, it seems, was that the route MH17 was the most direct flight path to Malaysia, making it the cheapest–and therefore the most profitable–route available.
Before you decide this is an egregious crime, let’s hear from an expert: “Norman Shanks, professor of aviation security at Britain’s Coventry University. ‘They chose the most direct and economic flight route possible, which keeps their fuel costs down and is something we expect as customers. They were no different from any other international airline.’ Link From that same article, there is this: ‘Tony Tyler, director general of commercial air industry trade organization IATA, said: ‘No airline will risk the safety of their passengers, crew and aircraft for the sake of fuel savings. Airlines depend on governments and air traffic control authorities to advise which air space is available for flight, and they plan within those limits.’
But do we expect our airlines to keep fuel costs down if it exposes us to greater risk? Would you expect that the fuel costs would be considered at all, given these circumstances? Would you expect that the airline would need to be compelled by government and air traffic control in order to avoid putting their passengers at risk? No passenger was given an opportunity to make an informed decision as to whether or not they were willing to bear the risk of flying over airspace in which a cargo plane and a fighter jet were destroyed in the same week that MH17 was shot down.
I doubt that the people that run the airline are bad people. Neither are the people in air traffic control. I have no idea about the financial condition of the airline, or any challenges they might be dealing with after one of their planes mysteriously vanished a few months ago. I don’t know who determined that they would take this route. But I do know that this is transactional behavior in its worst and most heinous form. The proof is the fact that 298 people were killed. They lost their lives, and their families lost them forever.
Profit doesn’t come before people. There is nothing transactional about your relationship with transportation providers of any kind, and there is nothing more important than your safety. There are some areas where the outcomes of transacting can come at too high a price.