European Union banes 92 foreign airlines

The European Union banned from its skies 92 foreign airlines, as part of a blacklist aimed at strengthening air security.

The new EU-wide list will take effet on Friday.

The 92 passenger and cargo airlines, mostly based in Africa, include all but one of the 51 carriers operating from the Democratic Republic of Congo and all airlines from Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Swaziland, as well as carriers in Thailand, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the British newspaper The Guardian reported Thursday.

Jacques Barrot, the European transport commissioner who dismissed some aircraft as "flying coffins," said: "This list will keep dubious airlines out of Europe. It will also make sure that all airlines in Europe's sky meet the highest safety standards."

EU countries decided to pool their national blacklists last year after a plane of Cyprus's Helios Airways crashed near Athens in August, killing all 121 people on board. Helios though, in common with all EU carriers, is not on the banned list because the European commission is satisfied that its safety record has improved.

The updated blacklist is aimed at replacing a patchwork of country-by-country bans that create confusion when one country bans an airline and another country does not.

The 92 airlines are on "List A" which imposes a total ban. A second, "List B," imposes lesser restrictions on three airlines - Air Bangladesh, Buraq Air from Libya and Hewa Bora from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Aircraft from these airlines which have failed EU safety tests will be banned. Hewa Bora will only be allowed to fly one aircraft in the EU, highlighting the almost complete ban on planes from Congo, reports Xinhua.

I.L.