Europe Presses for Global Blacklist of Unsafe Airlines

 - July 30, 2009, 6:08 AM

In the weeks following the June 30 crash of one of its Airbus A310s off the coast of the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean, Yemen flag carrier Yemenia became the poster child for questionable airline safety standards. The accident, in which 154 people died, provoked renewed calls for a global blacklist of operators deemed to be unsafe. France’s transport minister, Dominique Bussereau, revealed that ramp inspections conducted by the country’s DGAC civil aviation authority had revealed safety concerns that resulted in all three of Yemenia’s A310s being withdrawn from flights to France.

European Union transport commissioner Antonio Tajani promptly convened meetings with ICAO president Robert Gonzalez to advance the case for a global blacklist–a topic that will now likely top the agenda at ICAO’s next safety conference in March next year. However, it is far from clear that a workable consensus for a global blacklist will emerge from among the 190 ICAO member states. Gonzalez himself has indicated that he views the blacklist as something of a blunt instrument and that more sophisticated, targeted measures are needed to raise global safety standards.

The European Commission also demanded that Yemenia submit to fresh scrutiny of its operations by July 10, alleging that it repeatedly has been in breach of safety requirements, and in particular, maintenance standards. However, when the EC subsequently published its own updated list of blacklisted airlines later the same month, Yemenia had not been added to the group of carriers banned from operating into Europe. Instead, the list introduced almost a complete ban on airliners from Kazakhstan, with the notable exception of Airbus operator Air Astana, which is nonetheless subject to tight restrictions. It also added Zambia to the list of countries that are not considered to be doing enough to ensure safety standards among their airlines.