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EU Expands Airline 'Blacklist' to Sudan, Philippines

Nicola Clark,|The New York Times
Wednesday, 31 Mar 2010 | 4:48 AM ET

The European Union on Tuesday banned all airlines from the Philippines and Sudan from flying into the region’s airports, citing “serious safety deficiencies” found by the United Nations and U.S. aviation authorities.

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The European Commission, which manages the airline “blacklist,” acknowledged recent efforts by Philippine regulators and by two carriers — Philippine Airlines and Cebu Airlines — to improve safety standards. But the commission said it would forbid those airlines and 45 others from flying into the 27-country bloc as a precaution until its remaining concerns could be addressed. It added that Brussels was prepared to send a delegation of safety experts to visit the country.

“We are ready to support countries that need to build up technical and administrative capacity to guarantee the necessary standards in civil aviation,” the European transport commissioner, Siim Kallas, said in a statement. “But we cannot accept that airlines fly into the E.U. if they do not fully comply with international safety standards.”

The new measures go into effect Thursday, said Helen Kearns, a spokeswoman for the transport commission.

A spokeswoman for the Philippine mission to the European Union in Brussels expressed “surprise” at the decision but declined to comment further.

The Union also barred 12 commercial airlines from Sudan on Tuesday, citing a “persistent noncompliance” with international regulatory and safety standards in that country.

A 2008 report by the U.S. Department of State advised American citizens against flying on Sudanese airlines, saying that enforcement of safety standards in the country was “uneven.”

The Philippines civil aviation authority said last week that it planned to hire additional safety inspectors to address concerns by international regulators, which date to at least 2007. The head of the authority also vowed to ground any airline that did not receive international safety certification by Dec. 1.

Anthony Concil, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, said the flag carriers of the Philippines and Sudan had recently passed an operational safety audit: Philippine Airlines obtained the trade group’s safety certification in 2008, while Sudan Airways received its in February. The certifications, which are a requirement for membership in the 230-member association, must be renewed every two years.

Neither the Philippines nor Sudan has any airlines serving destinations in the European Union. But under the terms of the ban, all European travel agencies will be obliged to inform customers if they plan to travel on a blacklisted carrier. Travelers who have booked a seat on a blacklisted carrier have the right to have their reservation changed to another airline or to have their airfare reimbursed.

The commission also moved to ease restrictions on airlines from Angola and North Korea. The Angolan flag carrier, TAAG Angola, will now be allowed to operate throughout the Union under certain strict conditions with specific aircraft.

The North Korean carrier Air Koryo, which has been banned from the Union since 2006, will be allowed to resume operations with two aircraft that have been equipped with additional safety equipment to comply with international regulations, the commission said. The rest of its fleet remains barred from flying to the Union.

The European Union introduced its airline blacklist in March 2006 and reviews it every three months. The list currently includes around 280 airlines, mainly from Africa, and contains a blanket ban on carriers from 17 countries, including Congo, Indonesia and Kazakhstan.

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