EU Blacklist: Iran Air

Dear Folks,

I hope you are enjoying that Saturday feeling!! The weather today is superb. There are lots of cherry blossoms and pretty flowers in the park behind the Parliament. Brussels has been transformed, and everything looks baked in gorgeousness.

So, the issue that I want to bring to your attention today is in regards to the European Commission (EC) decision on March 30 to restrict the number of Iran Air flights into Europe. The EU maintains a blacklist, or rather a watch list of airlines, that are either banned or restricted from flying into EU member states. The EC monitors their aircraft on their  safety and air worthiness before imposing a ban. Airlines from the DR Congo, Sudan, Angola and North Korea are prominent culprits. In 2009, an Airbus A-310 belonging to Yemen’s national carrier Yemenia, crashed off the coast of the Comoros in the Indian Ocean, with the loss of everyone on board, except for one lucky girl. The aircraft in question had already been forbidden from flying into the EU.

 Now Iran Air has been added to the watch list. Half of its fleet, roughly 37 aircraft, are now banned from flying into EU airspace and using EU airports. 

The Iranian Revolution in 1979 saw an end to the sale of both Boeing and Airbus aircraft to the Islamic Republic. The sale of spare parts was also discontinued. Iran Air still maintains an aging fleet of Boeing 747s, Airbus 310s and a number of Fokkers. Therefore there is little doubt that its safety is in question given its fleet’s length of service . It is for this reason that the EC decided to act.

The ban will be a blow to the Iranian government since the national flag carrier performs the important function of carrying goods in and out of the country. The transportation of dual-use goods and technologies has always been a concern for the international community in relation to Iran’s nuclear programme. The EC’s ban will help to curtail the capacity of Iran Air’s use in the import of nefarious goods, as well as push the airline to improve the safety of its fleet. If it intends to fly frequently to Germany and France once again, it has no choice but to work towards this goal.

For more information, here is Reuter’s press release from March 30:

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union eased its ban on airlines from Angola Tuesday but vowed to block carriers from Sudan and the Philippines from starting flights to the 27-country bloc. The executive European Commission, which manages the blacklist, said TAAG Angola Airlines had improved and could bring specific aircraft into the whole EU under strict conditions.

But other Angolan airlines remain banned until the national authorities beef up their oversight. “We cannot accept that airlines fly into the EU if they do not fully comply with international safety standards,” European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said in a statement.

The Commission said it had imposed an operating ban on all Sudanese carriers because that country’s national authority continually failed to meet international safety standards. The EU executive said it was closely monitoring airlines from Egypt. In many airports in Sudan, travellers are greeted by the sight of a crashed plane lying beside the runway. Sudan blames U.S. sanctions, imposed in 1997, for difficulties in obtaining spare parts.

The Commission acknowledged efforts made by Philippine authorities and airlines to improve standards, but said it would ban them from the EU as a precaution. The European ban on Philippine carriers followed a downgrading by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority to category 2 from category 1 on safety ratings last November.

“Even if the Philippines is listed by the EU, it does not mean that Philippine aircraft are unsafe,” Alfonso Cusi, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said in a statement.

“Our aircraft meet the international standards in safety. It’s a matter of adopting the internationally accepted audit procedures.” North Korea’s Air Koryo, banned since 2006, is allowed to resume flights with its two safest aircraft. Iran Air faces restrictions after European experts found evidence of “serious incidents and accidents suffered by the carrier.”

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