Monday, February 28, 2022

Only Air India Flight Could Enter Ukraine's Closed Airspace? No!

A photograph showing the flight path of an Air India flight AI121 has gone viral to claim that the airline was the only one to be brave enough to enter Ukraine's airspace, which has been closed for all civilians flights since 24 February, amid the war with Russia.

The claim comes while India is trying to evacuate its nationals who are stuck in different cities of Ukraine. Around 16,000 Indian nationals, including students, have been trapped in the country since Russian President Putin invaded the country on Thursday, 24 February.

However, we found that the flight mentioned in the map didn't enter Ukraine's air space. The flight path available of flight-tracking websits show that the flight, which travels between Delhi and Frankfurt, avoided Ukraine’s airspace.

Those sharing the image said, "This single plane which is flying in the Russia-Ukraine war zone sky is a reflection of the power of new India. When no country dares to fly there, it is Air-India which is flying in the warzone to airlift Indian nationals who are stuck there."

Several claims with the same image tried to praise Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP government for evacuating Indian citizens from Ukraine.

The managing editor of News18 India, Amish Devgan, also shared the viral image with a caption that read, "This single picture tells the whole story. यह नया भारत है । जय हिंद". [Translation: This is new India. Jai Hind.] However, he later deleted the tweet.

Following Putin's invasion of Ukraine and declaration of war, Ukraine closed its airspace on 24 February.

We then looked at the flight number mentioned in the viral image. It said the flight was AI-121, going from New Delhi to Frankfurt, Germany. We checked the flight's journey on Planefinder's website on 24 February and found that the aircraft avoided Ukraine's airspace completely.

We also checked the flight routes since 24 February to 28 February, and found that none of the flights - incoming or outgoing - entered Ukraine's airspace.

The flight path on another flight tracking website, Flightradar24, also showed the same route.

We then conducted a reverse image search of the viral image and found that original image was posted by a Twitter user called, "@QuebecTango".

The user shared the viral image with a caption that read, "Air Traffic Control: Avoid the area - there's a war on! Air India: LEEEEEROOOOYYYYY JEEEENKINNNNS!!!".

The caption referred to a popular meme from the multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft.

The Twitter user later clarified that there was a glitch on the Planefinder application, which resulted in altered flight path for the Air India flight.

Evidently, an incorrectly depicted flight path of an Air India flight, originally shared as a joke, went viral with a misleading claim.

28/02/22 Abhilash Mallick/Quint

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