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Malaysia Airlines defends war-zone flight path

WASHINGTON -- For the second time in four months, Malaysia Airlines has suffered a devastating loss.

The company says its pilots did nothing wrong flying the route they did over eastern Ukraine, but the damage done to the airline may be irreparable.

On Saturday, Malaysia Airlines defended itself against accusations it shares some of the blame for what happened because its pilot flew too close to a war zone.

Liow Tiong Lai is the country's minister of transport.

"It flew at an altitude set, and deemed safe, by the local air traffic control, and it never strayed into restricted airspace," he said.

Just over two weeks ago, Ukrainian officials warned that it was unsafe to fly at 26,000 feet in the Donetsk region. Then, just three days before the crash, they raised the floor to 32,000 feet. MH17 was flying at 33,000 feet when it was shot out of the sky.

The plane was following a route well traveled by other airlines.

According to Flightradar24, over the seven days prior to the crash, more than 800 commercial planes had chosen a similar flight path.

Malaysia Airlines is now trying to weather a second aviation tragedy just four months after the disappearance of MH370 with 239 people on board. Not only has its reputation been tarnished, but the airline has been losing money - $1.3 billion over the past three years.

"Their bookings are flatlined," said CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg said. "Their future bookings are not even on the radar, if you will excuse that expression, and what's happening is it's going beyond that."

Just last month in a speech, the company's CEO vowed to "rebuild" the airline.

But that was, of course, before Thursday's crash.