European ‘blacklists’ published as industry controversy deepens

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Three European Union countries have published “blacklists” of banned airlines, but Italy’s transport minister argues that the EU should ditch blacklists and publish “whitelists” of approved carriers.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), meanwhile, says blacklisting is “punitive” and does nothing positive for airline safety.

Europe appears still to be a long way from defining standard criteria that would enable the EU to publish a list of all airlines banned by member states, a process the European Commission has previously recommended.

France’s list includes: Thai carrier Phuket Air; Linhas Aereas de Mocambique (LAM) and Transairways, which operates flights for LAM; Air Koryo of North Korea; Liberia’s International Air Services; and US-registered Caribbean airline Air St Thomas.

Belgium has published the longest list: Egypt’s Air Memphis; Central Air Express of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Armenia’s Air-Van Airlines; Ukraine’s South Airlines; Silverback Cargo of Rwanda; International Air Tours of Nigeria; Ghana’s Johnsons Air; Africa Lines from the Central African Republic; and Libya’s ICTTPW.

Finally, Switzerland has announced existing bans on Egypt’s Flash Airlines and Air-Van Airlines. But the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA) warns that its brief list is not an indication that all other airlines have been positively vetted. It says the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) scheme, under which aircraft inspections resulted in the two airline bans, cannot be carried out on all foreign aircraft entering Switzerland.

The latter thinking appears to be a part of Italy’s rationale in calling for a “whitelist” of approved carriers instead. Transport minister Pietro Lunardi wants the EU to draw up criteria for approving carriers that are allowed to operate in EU airspace. IATA says its operational safety audit system on individual carriers could be used as a benchmark for their approval.

- Struggling Thai carrier Phuket Air is to focus is operations on domestic and international short-haul flights, opting to wet-lease its larger aircraft to foreign airlines. But the company – under pressure following highly public incidents and the revoking of landing permission by some European states this year – has denied earlier suggestions by its owner that it would almost completely withdraw from airline services.

DAVID LEARMOUNT/LONDON