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Jill's Travel Blog

Blacklisted Airlines ‐ What to know before you go

August 13, 2015

Going to exotic, less-traveled destinations can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work to get around. Often times flying is the more attractive option rather than spending the entire day in a vehicle on less-than-optimal roads. This is why I’m going to educate you today on what blacklisting of airlines is, what it means, and how it can affect you.

The European Union (EU) and the US are the main two regions that blacklist or restrict airlines. The EU looks at individual airlines, while the US looks at entire countries.

In the EU, when an airline is blacklisted it means one of two things, either they are not allowed to fly in or out of a given region at all ‐ they are totally banned, or they are allowed to operate their flights, but with restrictions. A complete list of these airlines is maintained by the European Commission. Annex A means both the airline’s operations and its aircraft do not meet EU safety standards. Annex B is where it gets fuzzier. Sometimes specific aircraft are exempt from the ban while others are cleared, but either way, the airline is still allowed to operate flights in and out of the region.

For example, when I was traveling to Madagascar from Paris on Air Madagascar, we were quite confused when the plane bearing the Air Madagascar insignia taxied by the terminal but didn’t stop. Fast forward roughly 12 hours later and an Air Italia plane parks at the gate with our Air Madagascar flight number. Turns out that Air Madagascar had just been B-blacklisted by the EU and they had to find another airline to wet-lease a plane from in order to operate the flight. While it was good we finally did have a plane to take us to our destination, this is far from an optimal situation because the new carrier doesn’t have any incentive to try and make up for lost time, or even give you good service on the plane. On the way back to Paris, also on an Air Italia plane, they even made an unscheduled stop in Nairobi, Kenya. It was the middle of the night and no passengers were exchanged ‐ who knows what else the plane was carrying besides people!

In contrast, when the US renders restrictions, it does it by entire countries rather than airlines or aircraft. They look at whether the country meets the Civil Aviation Standards set by the FAA. If they do, the country is classified as Category 1. This means that airlines from this country are allowed to expand and new airlines can enter the market. If they are found to be lacking in any way, the country gets classified as a Category 2 and no airlines from that country are allowed to expand their services in and out of the US, and no new airlines from that country can initiate service.

In general, African countries and their airlines will have the greatest number of restrictions, however, they also account for the least amount of air traffic. Having traveled quite a bit in Madagascar (a country just east of mainland Africa for those that are geographically challenged), I can attest to the fact that air travel is still probably safer than traveling by 4x4 vehicle on rutted, sometimes almost impassable roads through very sparsely populated areas.

Happy & Safe Travels!