EU bans all Indonesian airlines as well as several from Russia, Ukraine and Angola

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Friday, June 29, 2007

The European Union banned all of Indonesia's air carriers yesterday, none of which presently operate services to Europe, as well as several from Russia, Ukraine and Angola. They are the latest additions to the already extensive List of air carriers banned in the EU. The ban is scheduled to come into effect on July 6. Just hours after the ban a Boeing 737 operated by one of the blacklisted airlines, TAAG Angola Airlines, crashed into a house during landing, causing at least six fatalities in Northern Angola.

Indonesia currently has 51 airlines, having grounded several and revoked the licences of others on June 25. The EU said that substandard maintenance and operation and a slow reaction by Indonesia to solve the problem were the main causes of the ban. EU holidaymakers who have booked flights with banned airlines via travel agents will be refunded for the services.

EU transport commissioner Jacques Barrot said of the ban "Once more, the EU blacklist will prove to be an essential tool not only to prevent unsafe airlines from flying to Europe and to inform passengers travelling worldwide, but also to make sure that airlines and civil aviation authorities take appropriate actions to improve safety."

Operations and safety editor at Flight International David Learmount commented that Indonesia, whose airline industry was deregulated the early 1990s, is one of a handful of cases where deregulation has lowered safety standards instead of improving them, saying of the move by the EU "Standards in aviation safety have been going up dramatically on a worldwide basis, but there are still places where they are [of the standards of] the 70s and 80s. In Indonesia the safety watchdog was told earlier this year to pull its socks up, but the EU is clearly convinced that it has not done so."

One unnamed EU official was reported by The Guardian to have described Indonesia's civil aviation authority as "not very reliable", referring to a lack of reaction to warnings of an imminent ban and requests that Indonesia reassured officials that the problem was being dealt with.

Indonesia has responded to the ban by saying that, according to information unseen by the EU, Indonesian safety standards are rising. Director-general of civil aviation at the Indonesian transport ministry Budhi Mulyawan Suyitno told Reuters new agency that, "Our data can show them that we have improved on every line. The US had already downgraded Indonesia's safety rating earlier this year.

Also affected by the bans are Ukraine's Volare Aviation, while Russia has imposed bans on four of its airlines after consulting the EU and restricted six others, Bulgaria has revoked the licences of six cargo airlines and Moldova has banned eight airlines.

Meanwhile, Pakistan International Airlines, subject of a controversial EU ban earlier this year, had restrictions on some of its aircraft lifted. The airline's fleet of Boeing 777s and some of their Boeing 747s and Airbus 310s will now be allowed back into European airspace.

The announcements come after three accidents involving Indonesian airliners - the New Year's Day crash of Adam Air Flight 574, which killed 102 people, the subsequent accident involving Adam Air Flight 172, which cracked in half on a hard landing but held together, preventing serious injury, and the March crash of state-run Garuda Indonesia Flight 200, which claimed 23 lives. All the accidents involved ageing Boeing 737 aircraft.

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