Malaysia Airlines (MAS)’s Chief Commercial Officer Hugh Dunleavy underlined the need for the industry to improve information sharing about where it is safe to fly and where it isn’t.

“There is a critically urgent need for more [information] sharing,” Dunleavy said. “This is a risk assessment issue that is nothing to do with commercial operations or national security. The situation has to change.”

The airline lost a Boeing 777-200ER on July 17 over Eastern Ukrainian airspace. The aircraft is widely believed to have been shot down by a rebel surface-to-air missile. All 298 passengers onboard were killed. Investigations are ongoing, but massively complicated by continued fighting in the region, among other things.

In one of his first interviews since the MH17 incident, Dunleavy defended the airline’s decision to fly that route. “We were told it was safe to fly MH17 over the Ukraine at that height, at that time, on that day,” he said. “If we can’t get government bodies to tell us what is safe, who can we rely on?” he asked.

He pointed out there were some 400 flights daily over Ukraine at that time of the attack on MH17, and that any one of them could have been shot down: “but we were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Dunleavy is also critical of the fact that some airlines had already decided not to overfly Ukraine using flight corridor L980—but had allegedly not shared any of the reasons with any of the relevant advisory bodies.

“If some airlines had the information [that it was unsafe to overfly], we have to ask why they did not share it,” he said. 

“But 289 people died here—this can’t be treated as confidential information. Military and intelligence information as well as commercial input should be shared to avoid this kind of thing ever happening again,” he said.

Dunleavy said the ideal solution for the industry, most likely driven by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), would be to coordinate all flight-safety information and then disseminate important notifications to all carriers. This, he said, would help protect sensitive or confidential sources.

ICAO is working on proposals on how to improve the process and held a first meeting with constituents earlier this month.