Cape Town - When it comes to aviation authorities of the European Union, African carriers tend to have a bad rap.
On Tuesday 16 May, the European Commission updated the EU Air Safety List, the list of non-European airlines it says "does not meet international safety standards".
And just as the EU Commission removed Mozambique and Benin carriers from its banned list, Zimbabwe's ailing carrier Air Zimbabwe has been added.
All air carriers from Benin and Mozambique have been removed from the EU Air Safety List, while four individual airlines, one each from Nigeria, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe, were added.
The Commission states that following the latest update, all airlines certified in Benin and Mozambique are cleared after "further improvements to the aviation safety situation in these countries".
On the other hand, it states the airlines Med-View (Nigeria), Mustique Airways (St Vincent and the Grenadines), Aviation Company Urga (Ukraine) and Air Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe) were added to the list due to "unaddressed safety deficiencies that were detected by the European Aviation Safety Agency during the assessment for a third country operator authorisation".
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It says that while it is only able to inspect aircraft of airlines that operate flights to and from its Union airports, it is not possible to inspect all aircraft.
Preventative tool to improve aviation safety
While the EU Air Safety List is aimed at helping to maintain high levels of safety in the EU as well as assist affected countries to improve their levels of safety, "in order to eventually allow them to operate flights to and from airports in the European Union", industry experts say the problem with the EU blacklist is that it is opaque.
Criteria for blacklisting or removal from the blacklist have never been published and the reasons offered for blacklisting are unspecific stating, “Unaddressed safety deficiencies", giving little clarity of key issues of safety overall.
The Commission itself says, "The fact that an airline is not included in the Community list does not, therefore, automatically mean that it meets the applicable safety standards."
"Where an airline which is currently included in the Community list deems itself to be in conformity with the necessary technical elements and requirements prescribed by the applicable international safety standards, it may request the Commission to commence the procedure for its removal from the list."
The Commission says it is constantly looking at ways to improve air safety.
One such way is to work with aviation authorities worldwide to raise global safety standards, outlining the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) does implement technical cooperation projects with partner countries and regions.
"Improving Air Transport in Central Africa (ATA-AC) project, where EASA works with a number of African states on several aspects of aviation safety has benefited Benin and Mozambique, through its "cooperation projects, which contributed to address past safety deficiencies", says the Commission.
Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc says the removal of Benin and Mozambique airlines is a signal to the 16 countries that remain on the list that improvement and removal is possible.
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Where the EU list is said to be lacking transparency though, the measure of airline safety through the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) sets the global benchmark, which requires airlines to undergo a comprehensive audit every three years.
Airlines who fail to maintain IOSA accreditation are automatically disqualified from IATA membership, along with its IATA-managed international benefits, such as the "financial clearing house which is the airline industry remittances and payments backbone".
Currently a total of 181 airlines are banned from EU skies:
- 174 airlines certified in 16 states, due to a lack of safety oversight by the aviation authorities from these states.
- Seven individual airlines, based on safety concerns with regard to these airlines themselves.
These seven airlines are:
Iran Aseman Airlines (Iran)
Iraqi Airways (Iraq)
Blue Wing Airlines (Suriname)
Med-View Airlines (Nigeria)
Mustique Airways (St Vincent and the Grenadines)
Aviation Company Urga (Ukraine)
Air Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe)
An additional six airlines are subject to operational restrictions and can only fly to the EU with specific aircraft types: Afrijet and Nouvelle Air Affaires SN2AG (Gabon), Air Koryo (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), Air Service Comores (the Comoros), Iran Air (Iran) and TAAG Angola Airlines (Angola).
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