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Airline blacklist splits opinion

Switzerland will name and shame airlines with bad safety records


The decision by the Swiss aviation authorities to publish a blacklist of airlines banned from Switzerland over safety concerns has received a mixed response.

Consumer groups have welcomed the move, but a leading aviation expert has warned that it will not contribute to safety – rather the opposite.

The Federal Civil Aviation Office said on Thursday that it would publish the list on the internet on September 1.

"The publication of companies with systematic deficits is in the interests of security and transparency," it said in a statement.

The announcement followed a meeting between Swiss Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger and his French counterpart Dominique Perben in Paris. France has announced it will make its list public on Monday.

Among European nations only Britain has published a blacklist so far. Switzerland had previously refused to follow suit, citing data-protection reasons.

Belgium has now announced that it will also publish a list.

Consumer groups in Switzerland – who have long been pushing for such a list – have welcomed the decision, saying it will provide travellers and travel agents with useful information when booking trips.

"The publication of the list is a good step in the right direction," Jacqueline Bachmann, head of the Consumer Protection Association, said in a statement.

Public pressure

But aviation analyst Sepp Moser warned that publishing the names of banned airlines would be counterproductive, adding that the authorities had simply caved into public pressure.

Moser said airlines had enjoyed some confidentiality under the old system if they reported incidents or faults that might potentially have led to accidents. He claimed this might not be the case in future.

"Once you have the blacklist, the first priority will be to ensure you are not on it and this is a different way of thinking and dangerous in the long-term," Moser told swissinfo.

He added that being on a blacklist was also unlikely to persuade many airlines to fix their safety problems.

"Once their name has been on the list they will be destroyed and there will be no incentive to improve the situation," said Moser. "The incentive will be to close down the airline and restart it under a new name, probably without rectifying the problem."

Air disasters

Switzerland's aviation authorities came under pressure last year to publish the blacklist following revelations that a passenger jet involved in a deadly crash in Egypt on January 3 2004 was one of more than 20 aircraft banned from Swiss airspace.

The French decision to publish the blacklist follows a plane crash in Venezuela earlier this month in which 152 French nationals died.

A further two crashes, in Greece and Peru, have also occurred in the past two weeks. More than 300 people have died in the three disasters.

The European Commission has already announced that it is planning to introduce an EU-wide blacklist of airlines grounded for safety reasons. The United States compiles a similar list based on countries rather than individual airlines.

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson

Key facts

Switzerland is to publish a list of blacklisted airlines on September 1.
France and Belgium will publish their lists on Monday.
Britain is the only other European country to make such a list public.
The United States compiles a list based on entire countries rather than individual airlines.
The European Commission is planning to introduce an EU-wide blacklist.

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