Airlines had previously avoided Ukrainian airspace as well
After MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, air traffic data suggest that more and more flights that weren’t Ukraine-bound began to skirt around the country’s borders.
Flight patterns appeared to shift towards a path along Ukraine’s eastern borders hours after MH17’s burning debris was located in eastern Urkaine, as seen in the image to the side. That’s according to Flightradar24.com’s air traffic data at 20:00 UTC from July 17, compared to the data from July 10 and July 3. The circumventions coincided with several airlines’ announcements, including Delta, Lufthansa and Aeroflot, that they would re-route planes to avoid Ukrainian airspace.
Even though what the Federal Aviation Administration deemed unsafe airspace over Ukraine didn’t include MH17’s crash site, many airlines in fact had already re-routed flights, skirting the country’s eastern border. Flights operated by Aeroflot, for example, that normally took a straight-line path from Sochi to Moscow—passing almost exactly over Hrabove, where MH17 crashed—had begun to tilt northeast to avoid entering Ukrainian airspace as early as May, according to Flightradar24’s historical flight records for SU1131.
SU1131’s actual flight path is shown in purple above.