by GREGORY POLEK
The European Commission has lifted flight restrictions into Europe imposed on all operators from Swaziland, as well for Cebu Pacific Air in the Philippines and Kazakhstan’s Air Astana with the latest revision of the European Union air safety list, or so-called blacklist. The EC said it based its decisions on various sources and hearings before the EU Air Safety Committee, which met from March 25 to 27.
“When countries do what it takes to ensure the safety of their aviation industry, it is important that the EU recognizes these efforts,” said EC vice president Siim Kallas. ”The proof is the aviation safety progress we are witnessing in Africa. Swaziland is now the second country, after Mauritania, to be removed from the EU safety list. Promising progress was also noted in Zambia, Mozambique, Sudan, and Libya, as well as in the Philippines and Kazakhstan.”
Following last year’s removal of Philippine Airlines from the safety list, Cebu Pacific’s removal reflects a gradual improvement in air safety in the Philippines, said the EC in a statement.
Although Kazakhstan’s Air Astana saw the restrictions lifted on the number of flights it can operate since 2009 to the EU, all other Kazakh airlines remain banned until the Kazakh authorities implement what the EC calls a sustainable system to effectively oversee their safety. The commission also noted progress in Libya, which will maintain voluntary restrictions not to fly to the EU applied since the Libyan revolution, as well as in a number of other countries whose carriers remain on the safety list, such as Sudan, Mozambique and Zambia.
The EU Air Safety Committee, which consists of aviation safety experts from the commission, from each of the 28 member states of the Union, as well as from Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), unanimously voted to lift the restrictions. The EC decision also received a positive opinion from the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
The updated EU air safety list includes all airlines certified in 20 states, for a total of 294 airlines fully banned from EU skies. The list also bans two individual airlines, for a total of 269. So-called operational restrictions extend to another 10 airlines.
For its part, Air Astana applauded the decision to lift its flight frequency restriction, imposed in July 2009 following the failure of the Kazakhstan Civil Aviation Committee to pass an ICAO safety audit.
“We are delighted by the EU Air Safety Committee’s decision, which reflects the enormous amount of hard work that Air Astana staff have put into ensuring that flights are operated safely and in accordance with best international practices,” said Air Astana president Peter Foster. “The airline can now plan for more flights to Europe, with Paris and Prague both new destination priorities for launch in late 2014 [or] early 2015.”
Air Astana currently operates services from Almaty and Astana to London three times a week, Astana to Frankfurt daily, and Atyrau to Amsterdam six times per week. It operates an all-western fleet consisting of Boeing 767-300ERs, Boeing 757-200s, Airbus A320-family aircraft and Embraer E190s.