MH132 took off from Auckland on the 24th December 2015 and was headed towards Kuala Lumpur.
Eight minutes into the flight the pilot queried the air traffic controller why was the flight being directed more South than the flight plan he had in hand. Airways, the agency that handles airspace traffic management in New Zealand told the pilot that that was the flight plan submitted to them by Malaysia Airlines’s Operations Dispatch Centre (ODC).
Many read only the headlines in various news portals and began to make fun of Malaysia Airlines. Already reeling from the wounds of MH370 and MH17, this latest incident isn’t the kind of publicity the airline would want to have. Even in Whatsapp groups that I belong to misinformed persons were making jokes of Malaysia Airlines. I had to correct their perception and so did a senior airline Captain in one of the groups.
Malaysia Airlines pilots do not make their flight plans. It is up to the ODC to do so and pilots fly the routes prescribed. The ODC will then submit the flight plan to the countries the aircraft will be flying from, over and to and the air traffic management agencies will then review the requested altitude and route and amend if necessary before clearing. A copy of the flight plan will then be dispatched to the flight crew involved.
Flying from Auckland to Kuala Lumpur will normally take a northwestern route passing, for example, Brisbane. However, due to headwinds caused by high-altitude jetstreams, or if severe thunderstorms are expected en route then a southwesterly route is taken – either passing over Melbourne or Sydney, before tracking northwesterly again towards Kuala Lumpur. In this case, the aircraft flew heading towards Melbourne before it was then directed towards Sydney and flew just south of the latter city. As a matter of fact, the aircraft landed in Kuala Lumpur nine minutes ahead of schedule. The aircraft would have had more than enough fuel for this route plus a buffer for diversions and the different routing was not a safety issue at all.
However, it is of my opinion that Malaysia Airlines should look into why was Airways not updated by the ODC when the pilots had been updated.
This occurrence is not something peculiar that it demands the negative publicity it received. It is just because it is Malaysia Airlines, an easy target for sensationalists.