Jul 19 2012
By Wole Shadare
The new list has 284 airlines from 24 countries worldwide currently barred from flying into Europe. Out of the 24 countries worldwide with airlines on the banned list, 17 of them or over 70 per cent are from Africa. This means that about a third of all African countries are on the banned list.
But the good news is that no Nigerian airline featured on the list, which observers had described as image damaging.
Top on the list in Africa is Democratic Republic of Congo with 36 carriers, while Sudan has 14 and Mozambique and Angola had 13 each.
Others are Sao Tome and Principe 10, Benin Republic 8, Gabon 7, Sierra Leone 7, Republic of Congo 5, Ghana 1, Rwanda 1, Djibouti 1, Zambia 1, and Mauritania1.
The new list, which was published in April this year, was the subject of debate at the on-going International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) African Ministerial Meeting on Aviation Safety taking place in Abuja.
There are two annexes, Annex A and B contained in the banned list. “A’ lists air carriers of which all operations are subject to a ban with the EU whilst annex B lists carriers of which operations are subject to operational restrictions with the EU.
All carriers listed in Annex A could be permitted to exercise traffic rights by using wet-leased aircraft of an airline which is not subject to an operating ban, provided that the relevant safety standards are complied with.
These wet-leased aircraft are largely from the EU considered very lucrative business for them whilst it is very expensive for the banned carrier.
The first version of the EU blacklist was published in 2006, on the legal basis of the Regulation NO. 474/2006 of the European Commission, issued on March 22 of that year. This current version of the list was drawn on April 3, 2012. The list has been regularly updated since then to accommodate more countries.
Experts are curious that currently, no African country had ever been removed from the list even as they insisted that there had been general improvement of aviation safety on the continent, adding that a number of countries on the list had rectified several safety deficiencies identified through ICAO audits.
Participants drawn from airlines around the globe, including 33 Ministers of Transport in the continent and other aviation stakeholders at the ongoing African Ministerial conference on Aviation Safety in Abuja, said the idea to have many African airlines on the infamous list was both political and economic consideration.
They accused EU of including many African carriers on the list to expand their operations into the continent, just as they admitted that the continent’s carriers still needed to maintain high aviation safety and work towards exiting the list.
Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Harold Demuren who chaired one of the sessions, said Africa has a lot of challenges on aviation safety, adding that regulatory deficiencies, infrastructural decay, poor navigational facilities and autonomy of the Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs) must be addressed if the region hopes to be taken seriously.
The panel disclosed that Ministers of Transport or Aviation were going to be engaged on the need to, “stop political interference in safety regulations”.
Secretary-General of African Airlines Association (AFRAA), the umbrella body for the continent’s airlines, Elijah Chingosho, lamented that with 130 airlines on the banned list, the perception would have been created among potential customers, particularly from the EU countries that all African airlines are unsafe.
He said: “Several people have told me that their travel agents advised them against flying African airlines at a competitive disadvantage compared to their European counterparts. This is happening at a time when the intercontinental traffic between Africa and Europe is very much dominated by European carriers, for example, Air France having a virtual monopoly on francophone West and Central African intercontinental traffic”. .
According to the AFRAA scribe, a blacklisting not only restrict affected airlines’ operation into EU destinations but also has adverse effects on their operations to other cities outside Europe as ticket sales of the airlines’ in EU countries dwindle, leading to codeshare/interline partners withdrawal of tickets and limits their co-operation.
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