Afghanistan's Safi Airways is to wet-lease aircraft to maintain its German route as the European Commission prepares to blacklist all operations by Afghan carriers.

The carrier is also looking at the possibility of securing a European registration for its fleet in order to extract itself from the effects of the ban.

Safi Airways has been operating between Kabul and Frankfurt since last year.

But it says the European Commission, which has been scrutinising Afghan safety oversight, is planning to ban Afghan carriers from 23 November.

Safi Airways says it will be forced to wet-lease aircraft in order to keep the Frankfurt operation open, and that this will require additional monthly investment of over $500,000.

"It is very unfortunate Safi Airways got to know about the possible ban way too late," says Safi chief executive Werner Borchert, pointing out that the carrier's aircraft have been inspected often by German authorities.

"What makes this ban especially hard for us is the fact that the Commission has, on several occasions, confirmed that it does not see a safety risk in Safi's operations."

Safi describes the forthcoming ban as a "serious setback" for scheduled traffic between Afghanistan and Europe.

It states that it is "in discussions" to re-register its fleet through the acquisition of a European air operator's certificate, to bring it under the supervision of European authorities and enable it to escape the restriction.

Safi has Airbus A340 and A320 aircraft, as well as a Boeing 767 and 737s, in its fleet. It says the jets are maintained by Lufthansa Technik and that the airline employs primarily European pilots and technical personnel.

Borchert adds that the airline is intending to pursue membership of the IATA operational safety audit registry in January next year.

While it says the ban comes at the "worst possible time", Safi is not criticising the European Commission's fundamental decision regarding Afghanistan. But it says it "does not understand" why regulatory authorities could not reach a "transition agreement" for the carrier despite its safety standards.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news