EU'S BLACKLIST OF UNSAFE AIRLINES
The European Union (EU) recently blacklisted certain airlines that fell short of minimum safety standards. This came after last year's Yemen Airways accident off the Comoros Island, in which all but one passenger perished.
Besides, crashes in 2004 and 2005 that killed hundreds of European travelers might have prompted EU governments to seek a uniform approach to airline safety through a common blacklist.
The ban affected all flights operated by Republic of Benin-based airlines, Sudanese airlines, six Kazakhstan carriers, a Thai operator and an airline from Ukraine.
Explaining the situation, the 27-nation EU said that the ban on all airlines certified in the West African country of Benin is justified by the negative results of an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The EU Transport Commissioner, Antonio Tajani, said 'air passengers are entitled to feel safe and be safe.'
He also insisted that all carriers must conform to internationally required levels of air safety.
The list, which is updated at least four times a year, is based on deficiencies found during checks at European airports, the use of antiquated aircraft by companies, and shortcomings by non-EU airline regulators.
This is the tenth update of a blacklist drawn up by the European Commission in March 2006 with more than 90 airlines mainly from Africa. Carriers from Angola, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Rwanda, Indonesia and North Korea were affected.
But the Secretary-General of African Airlines Association (AFRAA), Nick Fadugba, has said that the move is not the solution but a negative and confrontational approach.
The AFRAA scribe, who does not object to safety, pointed out that the EU should jettison the term 'blacklist'.
He enjoined the EU to toe the line of the United States (U.S.), which has category one, two and three-all neutral terms.
Also, the former AFRAA scribe, Christian Folly-Kossi, observed that 'this is not a blacklist; it is a list of blacks.' He saw more politics than safety in the list.
We support any move, ban inclusive, to ensure air safety for air travellers provided that such is based on objective criteria and assessment. If the EU ban satisfies this objective test, it is quite in order. The EU should also satisfy all stakeholders in the aviation industry that its ban does not tilt towards racism as being alleged by some of the operators.
The EU should equally convince the airlines that the assessment used for the recent ban is correct and based on verifiable reasons or data.
All the same, aviation authorities in all countries, especially those affected, must ensure that all airlines operating in their countries are up-to-date in matters of safety. We say this considering the fact that when an accident occurs, it does not discriminate on the basis of race or nationality. The emphasis at all times should be on overall safety of all airlines irrespective of ownership.
Though airlines in Nigeria were not affected by the ban, it is still important that our aviation authorities ensure that airlines operating in the country meet the acceptable international safety standards.
It is regrettable that we do not have a national carrier, which ought to have set the standard for others to follow. But the absence should not make aviation authorities to abdicate their oversight functions on all airlines that operate in our airspace.
We believe that what the EU has done is in order as long as the assessment is done objectively. Air safety is of paramount importance and it should not be toyed with or politicized.