BRUSSELS The European Union has banned all Afghan airlines from flying into European airspace because of the country's failure to set up a proper safety regime, the executive Commission said on Tuesday.
National carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines was already banned and there were some restrictions on Kam Air, but the new EU blacklist extends the embargo to other carriers such as Safi Airways.
The ban takes effect from Wednesday and affects routes from Kabul to Vienna, London and Frankfurt.
"Where we have evidence that air carriers are not performing safe operations or where the regulatory authorities fail in their obligation to enforce the safety standards, we must act to ensure there will be no risks to safety," EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said in a statement.
Afghan airlines are now looking at ways around the ban, such as leasing better aircraft or buying overseas operators to run their fleet while being overseen by a credible regulator.
The country's second-biggest airline, Safi, said on Monday it hoped to buy a northern European airline in two or three months, which could act as an operator of the carrier's five-plane fleet.
"There are possibilities for airlines to continue flying and selling tickets under their brand names," a European Commission spokeswoman told reporters.
Other EU officials warned the problems went deeper than just safety regulation, citing a Kam Air flight that struck its tail on the runway upon take-off from a British airport in August.
Britain investigated that incident and imposed a ban on Kam Air's operations using DC8 aircraft.
Austria imposed its own ban the following month after finding safety failings on a Kam Air plane at Vienna airport.
The EU blacklist reads: "The results of this ... ramp inspection lead Austria to conclude that there were serious failures on the part of Kam Air in the areas of operational procedures, equipment, system handling and cargo loading."
(Reporting by Pete Harrison; editing by Janet Lawrence)