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SA Airlink to contest blacklist


Regional carrier unhappy at inclusion of partner airline in Swaziland on EU register

South African regional carrier SA Airlink is expected to lodge one of the first appeals against a blacklisting by the European Union following the inclusion of its partner airline Airlink Swaziland on the EU’s recently published list.

SA Airlink – a franchise of South African Airways in which the new Star Alliance member airline has a 10% stake – launched services to Swaziland in 1999 after taking a 40% holding in newly created Swazi national carrier Airlink Swaziland.

Airlink Swaziland replaced the wholly state-owned Royal Swazi National Airways and is now run as a joint venture between SA Airlink and the Swazi government, which holds a 60% stake.

The EU decided to ban all Swazi carriers from landing at Europe’s airports on the basis that the authorities of Swaziland had shown “a lack of ability” to carry out adequate safety oversight on its seven carriers including Airlink Swaziland.

SA Airlink chief executive Rodger Foster is reported to be arguing that the Swazi-registered carrier falls under South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority as it is managed by SA Airlink, and uses only aircraft and pilots registered in South Africa.

Airlink Swaziland does not operate to Europe, but provides scheduled services codeshared with South African Airways from the Swazi capital of Manzini to Johannesburg. The blacklisting could discourage European travellers from flying with the airline.

A senior European Commission official says: “One or two airlines have written to the Commission saying they feel that despite their regulatory oversight administration being inadequate they believe their operations are sound. While the onus is on those carriers to provide all the necessary documented evidence, the question is, how could we ascertain that they were maintaining safety standards without an adequate oversight authority?

“The system appears to be confusing. We don’t want to penalise an established well-run airline, but as long as there is ambiguity, we cannot take the chance.

“It would have to be demonstrated to us that the South African CAA would assume full responsibility for the safety oversight of Swazi carriers,” the official adds.

While he declines to name Airlink Swaziland as a carrier preparing to appeal, the official says the EC is examining the co-operation agreement between Swaziland and the South African CAA.

AIMEE TURNER / JOHANNESBURG

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