After the recent events in San Francisco, I shouldn’t have to say that aviation safety is a very serious business.
But strangely, I feel I need to. Because the latest EU aviation blacklist was published last week, and once again it contains so many curious contradictions and puzzling paradoxes that it is difficult read with a straight face.
Take the Philippines for example. National carrier Philippine Airlines is now free to resume flights to the EU (hooray!) – three years after the EU imposed a blanket ban on the country. It will now use its new fleet of EU-built and -subsidised Airbus jets to fly back to Europe. Curiously however, Cebu Pacific Air, which operates a brand new all-EU-made fleet – remains firmly on the naughty step.
Now let’s look at Indonesia. Garuda Indonesia is permitted to fly to the EU, but its subsidiary, Citilink, remains banned (although it has no wish to fly to the EU anyway). Another banned carrier is Lion Air, which will soon have one of the largest and most modern fleets of any airline in the world. Lion is banned from the EU, but its new subsidiary, Malindo Air – because it is based in KL, not Jakarta – is not.
It is also worth noting that AirAsia Indonesia is not banned from the EU, yet AirAsia Philippines is. Both airlines use the same aircraft and neither has ever had a crash.
But perhaps the most curious aspect of the EU blacklist is the restrictions it puts on certain airlines. Air Astana for example, is the only Kazakhstan-based carrier allowed into the EU. Yet restrictions mean it is not allowed to change the aircraft it operates to Europe, or increase the frequency of flights to its existing destinations. To navigate a way around the EU restrictions, it has even registered some of its aircraft in Aruba – 12,700km away. Barmy!
No-one wants aviation safety to be on front pages, as it has been this week. And one should applaud the EU for taking steps to make the skies safer. But the broad, unilateral brushstrokes it paints the world with lead to slightly surreal picture of the world’s aviation landscape.
Sadly, despite the EU’s best intentions, it becomes difficult to take them seriously.