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Finnair admits it flies over Ukraine after PR blunder

Finland’s national air carrier was forced to issue an apology and correction after wrongly claiming not to fly through Ukrainian airspace in the wake of Thursday’s alleged shooting down of a passenger plane. Despite posting the incorrect claim in English, the airline only admitted to its mistake in Finnish, prompting a continuing barrage of criticism – and accusations of poor taste - from social media users.

Finland’s national air carrier has apologised to its passengers for wrongly claiming not to fly over Ukraine in the wake of Thursday’s airline tragedy in which a passenger plane carrying almost 300 people was allegedly shot down over the country.

The company blamed "a lack of precision in the internal transmission of information" for announcing on Twitter hours after the crash that Finnair does not use Ukrainian airspace.

In a tweet issued hours after the crash was reported, Finnair had originally said: "For those of you wondering, Finnair does not fly over Ukraine. Your safety is our top priority."

Twitter users, however, quickly pointed out that the Flightradar aircraft tracking website appears to show Finnair flights continuing to use Ukrainain airspace.

Further denial

Finnair then issued a further denial on the social networking site, posting: “Flightradar is inaccurate and does not take into account the fact that the world is round. :) The route goes on the West border.”

This claim was met with widespread derision and anger from social media users, with the Flightradar website themselves taking to Twitter to insist that their data was accurate.

A short time later, Finnair issued a correction and apology in Finnish, admitting that the airline had in fact flown over Ukraine.

A link to a statement – also published in Finnish - on the firm’s website said the firm has followed the advice of the European air safety body Eurocontrol:

“Finnair has continued to fly through western Ukrainian airspace in the absence of restrictions or recommendations against doing so from Eurocontrol.”

The company also said: “At the start of July Finnair made the decision not to fly over the Crimean crisis area, and since that time the company has diverted flights that would normally cross this airspace.”

Finnair said it was “extremely sorry” for posting “imprecise information”, which it said was due to an “unfortunate lack of precision in the internal transmission of information.”

Apology in Finnish only

Although the initial erroneous tweet and subsequent denial were posted in English, as of mid-morning on Friday, Finnair had only issued its apology and admission of error in Finnish.

This led to a barrage of attacks from social media users from around the world who were unaware of the airline’s apology. Some accused the airline of poor taste in attempting to turn the tragic loss of almost 300 lives into a PR exercise for the Finnish firm.

One user described the airline’s online claims as “a disgusting advertisement”, while another accused the national flag-carrier of being “breathtakingly brazen”.