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EU Removes Cebu, Swaziland-Based Carriers From Blacklist

The European Union lifted a ban on Cebu Air Inc. of the Philippines and all Swaziland-based airlines under the latest changes to a list of unsafe carriers.

The EU said “the gradual improvement in air safety in the Philippines” justifies letting Cebu Air fly in the 28-nation bloc. The decision, nine months after Philippine Airlines Inc. won the same right, marks the second scaling-back of a March 2010 EU prohibition against all Philippines-based carriers.

The EU said it removed all carriers based in Swaziland from the blacklist as a result of “safety information from various sources and hearings.” In addition, the bloc permitted Kazakhstan’s Air Astana to increase flights to Europe.

“When countries do what it takes to ensure the safety of their aviation industry, it is important that the EU recognizes these efforts,” European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said in a statement today in Brussels.

This is the 23rd update of a blacklist first drawn up by the European Commission, the EU’s regulatory arm, in March 2006 with more than 90 airlines, mainly from Africa. The ban covers passenger and cargo carriers from nations including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Liberia, Sudan and Zambia.

Cebu Air, the biggest budget airline in the Philippines, said its current fleet can’t fly to Europe while citing London, Paris and Amsterdam as possible future EU destinations.

Fleet Decisions

“We need to make fleet decisions,” Cebu Air President Lance Gokongwei told reporters in Manila after the EU decision. He gave no timeline for a decision on starting flights to Europe.

Airline crashes in 2004 and 2005 that killed hundreds of European travelers prompted EU governments to seek a uniform approach to airline safety through a common blacklist. The list, updated generally twice 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.

In addition to imposing an operational ban in Europe, the blacklist can act as a guide for travelers worldwide and influence safety policies in non-EU countries. Nations that are home to carriers with poor safety records can ground them to avoid being put on the EU list, while countries keen to keep out unsafe foreign airlines can use the European list as a guide for their own bans.

In its previous update in December, the EU added all carriers based in Nepal to the blacklist.

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