Swiss won't publish list of banned airlines

Consumers want to know more about aircraft safety records Keystone

The Swiss government says it does not intend to make public a list of airlines prohibited from Swiss airspace, for the time being.

This content was published on January 9, 2004 - 19:24

On Thursday, Britain released a list of airlines banned from its skies, despite a European aviation agreement prohibiting the publication of such information.

The transport ministry reiterated on Friday that it would not publish the names of airlines banned for safety concerns, despite pressure from consumer groups.

The statement follows revelations that the passenger jet involved in a deadly crash in Egypt on January 3 was one of 24 aircraft banned from Swiss airspace. The number of banned aircraft has since been corrected to 21.

"The demand [to publish such information], while understandable, raises sensitive questions about data protection and the legality of such a step," the transport ministry said in a statement.

It added that it would need to examine the implications of making such information public before it could make a final decision.

On Wednesday the Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA) said it was prevented from publishing a list by a European aviation agreement, whereby governments share information about airlines with questionable safety records.

The British government, which is bound by the same agreement, on Thursday broke ranks by publishing its list of carriers banned from British airspace.

Unfit to fly

The FOCA said it would also not reveal how many airlines were banned from Swiss airspace, saying only that the number of actual planes unfit to fly was 21.

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.

Risk

For its part, FOCA said it could not publish a list because “if Switzerland disclosed this information, it would break the convention and we could no longer be part of this European conference,” spokeswoman, Célestine Perissinotto, 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.

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.

“[Passengers] 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.”

Judgement

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.

swissinfo

In brief

On January 3, a Boeing 737 owned by Flash Airlines crashed into the Red Sea near the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 148 people on board.

A day later the Swiss government announced that the airline had been banned from Swiss airspace due to safety concerns.

Authorities say 21 other planes are also banned from Swiss airspace.

The results of aircraft safety checks cannot to be disclosed under the European Civil Aviation Conference, although the British have done so.

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