EU bans more than 90 foreign airlines from 25-nation bloc

March 22 | Updated: Mar 23 2006, 05:30am hrs
The European Union banned more than 90 foreign airlines from countries including Thailand, Afghanistan and Swaziland, publishing the first EU-wide blacklist of unsafe carriers after crashes in the previous two years killed hundreds of European travelers.

The ban across the 25-nation EU covers passenger and cargo operators including Phuket Airlines of Thailand, Ariana Afghan Airlines and Airlink Swaziland. The list also targets carriers from Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, North Korea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

This blacklist will keep dubious airlines out of Europe, EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said in a statement today in Brussels. It will also make sure that all airlines operating in Europes sky meet the highest safety standards.

Several plane accidents last August prompted EU lawmakers to seek a uniform approach to airline safety. These include a crash in Venezuela of a West Caribbean Airways Boeing MD-82 that killed all 160 people aboard including 152 French tourists and in Greece of a Helios Airways Boeing Co. 737 in which all 121 people on board died.

The 2004 crash into the Red Sea of a Flash Airlines Boeing 737 in which 148 mainly French passengers died led the European Commission, the EUs regulatory arm, early last year to propose national blacklists and a Europe-wide overview. The commission stopped short of seeking a single European blacklist to avoid a clash with nations that were keen to retain regulatory power in this area.

Common Standards

Momentum for common standards and a single blacklist increased after France and Belgium at the end of August published the names of a total of 14 banned airlines, none of which was on both lists. The European Parliament led the campaign for member states to cede authority to the EU.

Todays common blacklist is the result of cooperation between the commission and member states under a new EU law. The list, to be updated at least every three months, is based on deficiencies found during checks at European airports, the use of antiquated aircraft by companies and shortcomings by non-EU airline regulators.

The EU also published a shorter list of airlines banned from using specific planes or types or aircraft. They include Air Bangladesh, Libyas Buraq Air and the Democratic Republic of Congos HBA.