Air France will expand its no-flyover zone around North Korea after concerns a recent missile test crossed a plane's flight path.
The airline said the move was being taken as a "precautionary measure" after a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) splashed down near the route being taken by Air France flight 293 from Tokyo to Paris on July 28.
"The information available to Air France at this stage indicates that the missile could have fallen into the sea at more than one hundred kilometers (62 miles) from the airplane's trajectory. Even if this distance was proven, it would not question the safety of the flight," spokesman Cédric Landais said.
CNN reported this week that the Air France flight, which had 332 people on board, passed just east of where the ICBM splashed down in the sea around Japan roughly five to 10 minutes prior to the missile impacting the water.
At the time of the splashdown, the Air France flight was approximately 60 to 70 miles north of where the missile landed, according to a review of flight data.
In a statement Thursday, Air France reiterated that the flight was "operated in accordance with the flight plan and without any reported incident."
"At this stage, as a precautionary measure, the company has decided to expand the non-flyover area around North Korea, a country that it does not overfly."
The airline also said that it "constantly analyzes potentially dangerous flyover zones and adapts its flight plans accordingly."
Lack of transparency
While the Air France jet was not in any immediate danger from the missile, analysts have raised concerns about North Korea expanding its testing range near flight paths over Japanese waters -- as Pyongyang does not provide advanced warnings about its plans.
Speaking to CNN Wednesday, US Defense Department spokesman Jeff Davis said "responsible nations" should give notice before conducting missile tests, adding not doing so put planes, ships and spacecraft at risk.
"Irresponsible nations fire these things off without putting out notice," he said.
Under guidelines issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN agency tasked with governing air safety and other matters, states have the "responsibility to issue risk advisories regarding any threats to the safety of civilian aircraft operating in their airspace."
"Said threats may include, but are not limited to, armed conflicts, ash clouds due to volcanic eruptions, (and) missile tests and rocket launches," the guidelines state.
Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it issued a warning to all vessels and aircraft operating within its exclusive economic zone eight minutes after the launch of the North Korean missile.
Air France confirmed it received the warning, but the message "did not specify any indication or instruction requiring an operational action on the part" of the airline. Two notices to airmen were published but not transmitted to the crew because "the event had already passed when they were sent by the Japanese authorities," the airline said.
North Korea has ramped up its missile testing program this year and the missile launched on July 28 appeared to have the range to hit major US cities, experts said.