EU lifts constraints on Cebu Pacific and Air Astana

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Philippines carrier Cebu Pacific has been removed from the European Commission’s blacklist of banned airlines, while all restrictions on Kazakhstan’s Air Astana have been lifted.

The blanket ban on operators from Swaziland has also been rescinded.

Cebu Pacific’s removal follows that of Philippine Airlines last year, and the Commission states that it is the result of “gradual improvement” in the Asian nation’s air safety oversight.

The US FAA has also newly declared the Philippines to be ICAO-compliant under its own international rating system.

All other Philippines carriers, however, and all Kazakh carriers besides Air Astana remain blacklisted by the Commission.

European transport commission Siim Kallas says: “When countries do what it takes to ensure the safety of their aviation industry, it is important that the [European Union] recognises these efforts.”

Kallas points out that there is evidence of progress in Libya, Sudan, Mozambique and Zambia. Swaziland is only the second country, after Mauritania, to have a blanket ban lifted.

Air Astana has remained outside of a full ban on operations, despite its services being partially restricted. But the removal of constraints allows the airline to increase frequencies to Europe and open new destinations. The carrier is looking to serve Paris and Prague by early 2015.

President Peter Foster says the Commission’s decision “reflects the enormous amount of hard work that Air Astana staff have put into ensuring that flights are operated safely”.

Kazakhstan’s government is engaged in a broad programme to overhaul its safety regulation and, following an nose-gear incident involving a SCAT Boeing 737 at Astana on 7 April, is to undertake an examination of the carrier’s operations. Inquiries are still continuing into the fatal SCAT Bombardier CRJ200 crash at Almaty last year.