French carriers Aigle Azur, Air Méditerranée and Europe Airpost have become the first to secure the new French ‘Horizon’ quality label aimed at restorying trust in teh aviation safety standards of charter, cargo and leisure carriers.

First championed by the then transport minister Gilles de Robien in early 2004, the quality label initiative is aimed at helping tour operators and travellers to judge the reliability and safety of airlines.

Afaq Afnor Certification is performing the audits and certification for the French airline passenger consumer protection scheme. Its commission is formed from tourism, airline, Government and consumer association representatives.

Following initial audits at the end of 2006, on 26 January the Afaq Afnor Certification commission recommended that Aigle Azur, Air Méditerranée and Europe Airpost be awarded the quality label.

This motion was passed by French transport minister Dominique Perben and tourism minister Léon Bertrand, launching the scheme with the three airlines.

The French transport ministry says: “Other companies are undergoing audit and are likely to be labelled during the coming weeks. These first labellings mark a new era in terms of information and transparency of airline security, one of the highest priorities of the government.”

Under the scheme, customers will be provided with more information about the identity of their air carrier and a list of approved, audited operators will be published on the Internet. These carriers would then benefit from priority status with French tour operators and distributors.

The voluntary certification scheme came in the wake of the Egyptian Flash Airlines Boeing 737 crash, which killed 148 passengers, many of whom where French tourists.