Africa's representative carrier group has condemned the European Commission's blacklist as an unfair punishment on all the region's airlines, one which stifles local competition and results in a commercial advantage to overseas operators.
The Commission's blacklist prevents carriers with poor safety records, or even an entire country's airlines, from operating within Europe. Since first being drawn up in 2006 the blacklist has featured a string of African carriers and currently imposes a blanket ban on all air transport from 14 African states.
African Airlines Association secretary general Elijah Chingosho slammed this "unfair" approach during the Embraer-organised Connectivity in Africa seminar in Nairobi. He acknowledged the need for better safety in the region - IATA figures for 2010 showed Africa still had the worst hull-loss rate, although statistics have improved, and AFRAA requires its members to pass IATA's operational safety audit - but he hit out at the blacklist which, he believes, tars the whole region's airline sector.
"Many of these airlines had no intention, or had no aircraft they could fly into Europe. They had no plans to do so," he said, noting that a blacklist containing 100 African airlines gave passengers the perception that even high-standard operators are unsafe. "Why not publish a list of safe airlines?"
AFRAA criticised this year's blanket ban on Mozambican carriers, including LAM Mozambique, and restrictions on Air Madagascar, arguing that both carriers had passed IATA audits and had good safety records.
Chingosho singled out France for rebuke, suggesting it was instrumental in shaping the blacklist and that Air France benefited. Nine out of 10 of Air France's most profitable routes are African, he claimed. Air France rejected this, stating: "We always try to co-operate with local carriers, to find a partner for domestic flights. Knowing the growth rates, strong African carriers would be beneficial to us. It brings competition but at least it also gets people flying regionally."
If a country's entire aviation infrastructure is deemed unsafe, no airline should be allowed to operate there, Chingosho added. "If a country is unsafe, why would it be safe for European airlines to fly into it?" he asked. "It would carry more weight if they were to say EU airlines are banned from flying there because it is unsafe."