Europe should abolish its airline blacklist

Bans have strained the development of Africa's aviation industry.
COMMENT, Business Trends, Aviation


Author: Dr Elijah Chingosho is secretary general of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA)

Last month, the European Commission updated its infamous list of airlines banned in the European Commission (EU), with a blacklist on all carriers that have been certified in Mozambique, in addition to the operations of Air Madagascar for two specific Boeing 767 aircraft, which the European Commission states is because of “significant safety deficiencies requiring decisive action in both cases”.

The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) received this disturbing news with great disappointment. Mozambique is the 14th African state to be included in the list, or the 15th if a partial ban on Madagascar’s national airline is included, which brings the number of African States now on the banned list to 26%.

LAM Mozambique Airlines’ safety record is impeccable. Since the company was established in 1980, it has not had a single major accident. And since 1989 there have been no accidents of any kind involving LAM Mozambique Airlines aircraft. Major European airlines can make no such claim. For example, according to the Flight Safety Foundation, Air France has had 23 major accidents (involving substantial damage to aircraft, serious or fatal injuries) since 1990, three of them with fatalities, and a total of 348 deaths.

LAM Mozambique Airlines has worked hard and invested significant resources to attain industry best practices on safety, which enabled it attain the IATA Safety Audit Certification in 2007, later renewed in 2009. However, the airline’s impeccable safety record, and dual achievement of the internationally reputed IOSA Certification and ISO 9000 Certification, has not spared it from the EU blanket banning. AFRAA fails to see how such blanket banning contributes to encourage African carriers that strive to achieve industry best practices in safety standards.

The banning of an airline not only prohibits that airline from operating to the EU but also impacts its ticket sales to other destinations, including on code shared routes as travel agents and other code share partners in EU are required by regulation at the time of sales or booking to notify passengers that the airline is blacklisted. Irrespective of what the European Commission public relations exercise of attempting to pass blanket banning as a solution to safety concerns is, it amounts to nothing more than a blunt instrument that constrains the development of a viable African air transport industry.

While the net losers are African carriers, the net beneficiaries are always the EU carriers that swiftly step in to fill the vacuum and take the market share of the banned airlines. Despite the blacklisting of Mozambique, EU carriers will continue to operate with increased frequencies and higher yields to Mozambique and other states that are subject to the ban. If the airspace of an African country is unsafe, it is unsafe also to European carriers who continue to fly the African skies for commercial benefit. African governments, the African Union (AU) and African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) should not allow this state of affairs to continue as the continents’ air transport industry is progressively being destroyed.

AFRAA calls upon all African stakeholders to address the serious safety oversight deficiencies and concerns in the states blacklisted and meaningfully engage with the EU to establish a mutually acceptable, fair and transparent mechanism to address safety concerns in place of the unilateral blanket banning, which has so far not yielded any meaningful achievement in advancing safety in the continent. Once again AFRAA’ reiterates the call made during its 42nd Annual General Assembly Resolutions in November 2010, which deplored the continued unilateral practice of blacklisting mainly African states and airlines with no visible benefits in enhancing safety on the continent, whilst having a huge negative commercial implications not only on the carriers concerned but on African aviation in general.

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