Swiss want banned airlines to be named

Consumers want to know more about aircraft safety records Keystone

A Swiss consumer group is urging the government to publish the names of airlines banned because of safety concerns.

This content was published on January 7, 2004 - 21:01

The Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA) said it would reveal more information if it were not tied to a European aviation agreement.

The call follows revelations that the passenger jet involved in Saturday’s deadly crash in Egypt was one of 24 aircraft banned from Swiss airspace.

The Flash Airlines Boeing 737 crashed into the Red Sea shortly after take-off, killing all 148 people on board.

On Wednesday the Foundation for Consumer Protection said the agreement by the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) not to disclose any information on faulty aeroplanes was “inhuman” and “unscrupulous”.

“Many customers have asked us where they can get further information [on airlines],” Jaqueline Bachmann, the organisation’s director, told swissinfo.

“We then have to tell them that the government does not give out such information to consumers and this is a fact that we cannot accept anymore,” she added.

Gentlemen’s agreement

The FOCA has revealed that 23 planes are currently banned. It says it would disclose the information if a so-called “gentlemen’s agreement” among nations were lifted.

On Thursday, the British government broke ranks by publishing a list of airlines banned from flying in and out of the country.

But the Swiss authorities insist they are standing by the agreement for now and have no immediate plans to follow suit.

“If Switzerland disclosed this information, it would break the convention and we could no longer be part of this European conference,” Célestine Perissinotto of the FOCA told swissinfo on Wednesday.

“We don’t want to take the risk of not being part of it, as we could no longer have access to the data shared among members.”

A day after the plane plunged into the sea near the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik, Swiss authorities said Flash Airlines had been banned from flying over Switzerland since October 2002 after safety checks revealed a number of shortcomings on the aircraft.

More transparency

The International Air Transport Association, IATA, agrees that more transparency is needed on air safety, but the international body also believes that disclosing too much would be counterproductive.

“We are not for the sharing of the information itself because we believe that confidentiality is very useful for gathering data, and if confidentiality disappears so will the data in many cases,” William Gaillard, spokesman of IATA, told swissinfo.

The Swiss Federation of Travel Agencies has criticised the fact that travel agencies often do not know which airline their customers travel with.

“It is not up to the travel agency to decide which airline will be used for a package holiday. The tour operator chooses the airline in most cases,” said Walter Kunz, chairman of the federation.

Despite their hesitance to share more information about airlines, IATA is in favour of providing more information to the travel agencies.

“We think that tour operators should be obliged to tell their customers [the travel agencies], which airline they will be transported on,” Gaillard said.

“And they should also have the ability to ask an airline they don’t know to provide them with an independent certificate of a safety audit before they accept a contract with them.”

Letter to France

Earlier this week the Swiss transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, stressed that the inspection results should not be regarded as a judgement on the airworthiness of the aeroplane owned by Flash Airlines.

In a letter to his French counterpart, Gilles de Robien, Leuenberger said these bans were a result of the spot checks and did not constitute in any case a general assessment of the state of safety of the aircraft.

Leuenberger said he would provide France with the detailed information on the inspection as soon as possible. 133 of the 148 people killed in the crash were French.


In brief

On Saturday, the Boeing 737 owned by Flash Airlines crashed into the Red Sea near the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik.

On Sunday, the Swiss government announced that the airline had been banned from flying to Switzerland due to safety concerns.

Authorities say 23 other aeroplanes from other airlines are also banned from Swiss airspace.

The results of aircraft safety checks are not to be disclosed under the European Civil Aviation Conference.

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