Blacklisting Black Airlines

The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has reacted with “great disappointment and concern” at the decision earlier this month by the European Commission to include all airlines registered in Mozambique on the European Union’s blacklist of air companies that are not allowed to fly in European airspace.An AFRAA release received by AIM on Friday notes that Mozambique is the 14th African country to receive a blanket ban on all of its airlines.The excuse invoked to justify the ban is air safety. Yet the main Mozambican air company, the public owned Mozambique Airlines (LAM), has a far better safety record than several European airlines.AFRAA points out that since LAM 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 aircraft.

This compares very favourably with some major European airlines. 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.The AFRAA release points out that LAM “has worked hard and invested significant resources to attain industry best practices on safety which enabled it to attain the IATA Safety Audit Certification in 2007 which was renewed in 2009″.But the praise heaped on LAM by IATA, and its achievement of the internationally reputed IOSA Certification and ISO 9000 Certification, “has not spared it from the EU blanket banning”.

The attitude of the European Commission puzzles AFRAA, for the continental organisation cannot see “how such blanket banning contributes to encourage African carriers which strive to achieve industry best practices in safety standards”. AFRAA points out that the banning of an airline “not only prohibits the airline from operating to the EU but also impacts its ticket sales to other destinations including on code shared routes as travel agents”. This is because the banned company’s code share partners in the EU “are required by regulation at the time of sales or booking to notify passengers that the airline is blacklisted”. AFRAA describes the use of blanket bans as “a blunt instrument that constrains the development of a viable African air transport industry in Africa”.

Furthermore, the beneficiaries are always European airlines “that swiftly step in to fill the vacuum and take the market share of the banned airlines”. There is a dose of hypocrisy here – for the EU argument is that the safety procedures of the Mozambican Civil Aviation Institute (IACM) are defective, and logically this should affect all airlines who use Mozambican airspace, and not just those that are registered in Mozambique.“If the airspace of an African country is unsafe, it is unsafe also for European carriers who continue to fly the African skies for commercial benefit”, AFRAA remarks. AFRAA suggests that African governments, the African Union and the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) “should not allow this state of affairs to continue, as the continents’ air transport industry is being progressively destroyed”.

AFRAA wants governments an civil aviation authorities “to address the serious safety oversight deficiencies and concerns in the States blacklisted and to seriously 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”.The blacklist, it argues, has no visible benefit in improving African air safety, but has “huge negative commercial implications not only on the carriers concerned but on African aviation in general”.

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