On the question why MH17 flew over Ukrainian civil war zone, experts say:

Malaysia Airlines, like a number of other carriers, have been continuing to use it because it is a shorter route, which means less fuel and therefore less money. (source)

However, there is another claim in the comments to above article:

Pilots do receive a personal bonus on fuel savings.

Is it really up to pilots to decide on flight plan and do they actually receive personal bonus based on amount of fuel saved?

  • 1
    It is not difficult to find first hand confirmations from pilots, e.g. on airliners.net, or several articles in online media about such bonus schemes for pilots. Are you looking for a confirmation with even more notoriety? Jul 18, 2014 at 14:51
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    Who claims that pilots create the flight plan?
    – user5582
    Jul 18, 2014 at 14:55
  • @Articuno: it's kind of implied, as the comment I quoted is a refutation to this comment: „you make it sound as if the pilots sat around with charts and planned out the route to save money from their own bank accounts. Likely the airline dispatch told them where to fly and planned the whole thing.”
    – vartec
    Jul 18, 2014 at 15:05
  • Ah. Gotcha. In that context I agree. Without that, I was thinking that the quote left open the possibility that a dispatcher planned the flight, and the pilot got bonuses for effective flight management that reduced fuel consumption.
    – user5582
    Jul 18, 2014 at 15:06
  • maybe this is off-topic... but the question makes it sound like that's a bad thing, if the answer is "yes." the pilots don't want to die (presumably); if they had thought that the route was dangerous they wouldn't have done it even for a bonus.
    – Kip
    Jul 25, 2014 at 20:53

1 Answer 1


In Canada, the flight plan is a joint responsibility between the pilot in command ("in relation to an aircraft, the pilot having responsibility and authority for the operation and safety of the aircraft during flight time") and a flight dispatcher

This is called co-authority dispatch.

the shared responsibility of the pilot-in-command and the flight dispatcher for all decisions respecting the operational flight plan prior to its acceptance by the pilot-in-command, and for the flight watch

"[T]he operational flight plan is approved and recorded by the pilot-in-command and the flight dispatcher". (ibid.) The pilot-in-command alone cannot choose a flight path that the flight dispatcher does not also approve of. Each has veto power.

See more info here: Transport Canada - Flight Dispatcher.

The United States has a very similar joint dispatch responsibility system (FAR 121.533).

Around the world, there are examples where both pilots and dispatch have been given incentives to minimize the amount of fuel spent (pilot incentive, dispatch incentive).

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