BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will ban all 51 Indonesian airlines including national carrier Garuda from its airspace in an update of its “blacklist” of flight operators deemed unsafe, officials said on Thursday.
The ban, proposed by EU experts this week and due to take effect on July 6, follows a series of air crashes in Indonesia and reports of deteriorating safety standards since deregulation of the country’s aviation sector in the late 1990s.
No Indonesian carriers fly to the EU, but the ban is set to harm the sprawling archipelago’s tourist industry as Europeans will be warned not to use Indonesian airlines on transit routes, such as between Jakarta and the island of Bali.
“European citizens should avoid flying with these carriers,” an EU official said. “They are really unsafe.”
Another official, from the EU’s executive Commission, said shortcomings had been discovered in the maintenance of aircraft, their operation deemed unsafe and the Indonesian aviation authorities judged unable to impose remedies.
“This leads to grave accidents, hence the ban,” he said, adding there had been four major accidents involving Indonesian carriers in recent years.
In March, a Garuda Indonesia plane with 140 people on board overshot the runway in cultural capital Yogyakarta and burst into flames, killing 21 people, including five Australians.
Following the accident, Indonesian government officials said the country might close some airlines as a team of transport experts called for a revamp of the aviation industry.
Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, Indonesian ambassador to the EU, said Indonesian airlines were safe and he hoped the EU would rethink its decision at a meeting of air safety experts in October.
“It is our commitment and our determination to have safety in our civil aviation,” he told Reuters. “We hope that the European Union can also give us the opportunity to improve.”
But the EU official said Indonesian authorities initially ignored warnings of the ban and came to Brussels too late to avert it. “When they finally showed up, they even could not tell us how many planes their carriers operate.”
Tourist agencies across the 27-nation EU will be obliged to inform customers that Indonesian airlines are on the blacklist if they continue to sell package tours involving their services on the Indonesian archipelago of over 17,000 islands.
Travelers who have already bought holidays involving the use of Indonesian carriers will be able to give them up and claim reimbursement, or expect travel agents to offer them an alternative, safe airline.
The Commission said the EU would also ban Angolan Airlines TAAG and Ukrainian cargo operator Volare Aviation Enterprise.
It added that after consultations with the Commission, Russia had decided to ban operations of four local airlines and restrict six others. In the same way, EU member Bulgaria revoked the certificates of six small cargo carriers.
Meanwhile, a ban on most aircraft operated by Pakistan International Airlines, in force since March, will be lifted for specific Boeing 747 and Airbus 310 planes. The carrier’s fleet of Boeing 777s remains authorized.