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Europe

EU Blacklists Unsafe Airlines

The European Union approved on Wednesday the first joint blacklist of nearly 100 mostly African airlines considered to be unsafe, in a move spurred by a spate of fatal crashes last year.

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Nearly 100 airlines have been grounded by the EU

The list, which goes into effect on Saturday, bans 92 airlines from flying EU skies all together and puts restrictions on another three from flying certain types of airplanes into the 25-nation

bloc.

"The European Union now has a coherent approach to banning airlines," Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said.

"This blacklist will keep dubious airlines out of Europe. It will also make sure that all airlines operating in Europe's skies meet the highest safety standards."

EU member states were stung into action after a string of deadly accidents last year that highlighted the fragmented approach to air safety in the 25-nation bloc.

The blacklist will work on the principle that an airline banned in one EU member will be outlawed in the whole bloc and the European Commission is to be charged with keeping the roster up to date.

Majority are Africa-based

Most of the carriers on the list are based in Africa and there are blanket bans on airlines from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia and Swaziland.

The few companies not from Africa are based in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, North Korea and Thailand.

Although some of the banned companies do not currently fly to the EU, the list will have a "preventive effect" by keeping them from trying to enter the European market in the future by such means as offering their planes for charter flights, said Barrot's spokesman Stefaan De Rynck.

To draw up the list, member states submitted their individual roster of companies considered unsafe and experts then voted on which airlines should be included on an overall EU list.

The airlines were singled out on the basis of "checks carried out in European airports, the use of poorly maintained, antiquated or obsolete aircraft (and) the inability of the airlines to rectify the shortcomings."

Harmonizing rules

Onur Air Schalter in Düsseldorf

Turkish airline Onur Air was able to skirt an EU ban last year

Currently there is a patchwork of rules on suspect airlines in Europe with France and Belgium introducing lists of banned carriers last year, following examples set by Britain and Switzerland.

"We're protecting Europe from companies that try to register in one country after having been banned in another," Barrot said.

"We're protecting Europe from practices which involve sending good planes to the big markets and leaving the flying coffins for less viable destinations," he added. The incoherence of the current rules was exposed last May when a Turkish airline, suspended by four European countries, simply redirected its flights to Belgium which had no ban.

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