PETALING JAYA: International Air Transport Association (IATA) defended Malaysia Airlines saying that no airline will risk the safety of their passengers, crew and aircraft just to save fuel. "I share the shock and sadness expressed by so many around the world on the terrible loss of MH17. "At this time, it is important we are very clear: safety is the top priority. "No airline will risk the safety of their passengers, crew and aircraft for the sake of fuel saving," IATA Director General and Chief Executive Officer Tony Tyler said in a statement yesterday. "Airlines depend on governments and air traffic control authorities to advise which air space is available for flight, and they plan within those limits," he said further. Tyler metaphorically compared flying to driving a car, where if the road is open, one assumes that it is safe. "If it's closed you find an alternate route," he said. "Civil aircraft are not military targets. Governments agreed to that in the Chicago Convention and what happened with MH17 is a tragedy for 298 souls that should not have happened in any airspace," he said, criticising the attack that brought down MH17 in Eastern Ukraine on Thursday. Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines has said in a statement that MH17 had filed a flight plan requesting to fly at 35,000ft throughout Ukrainian airspace as this is close to the 'optimum' altitude, but was not allowed by Ukrainian air traffic control. "However, an aircraft's altitude in flight is determined by air traffic control on the ground. Upon entering Ukrainian airspace, MH17 was instructed by Ukrainian air traffic control to fly at 33,000ft," it said in a statement issued yesterday. In an update, MAS released the latest number of passengers and their nationalities onboard the ill fated MH17, bringing the total to 298. These are the number of passengers and crew: Netherlands 192 (including 1 dual Netherlands/USA citizen), Malaysia 44 (including 15 crew & 2 infants), Australia 27, Indonesia 12 (including 1 infant), United Kingdom 10 (including 1 dual UK/S. Africa citizen), Germany 4, Belgium 4, Philippines 3, Canada 1, New Zealand 1.