Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
AIR Zimbabwe and four other airlines have been blacklisted by the European Union after failing to address safety concerns raised during the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) operator audits.
In a latest update on air safety, the European Commission said non-European airlines that do not meet international safety standards were subject to an operating ban or operational restriction within the European Union (EU).
Other affected airlines include Nigeria, Ukraine, St Vincent and Grenadines.
The ban is a major blow to Air Zimbabwe, which was working on resuming the lucrative Harare-London route that it suspended in 2012 when one of its planes was impounded in London over a $2,8 million debt to a parts and maintenance supplier.
The EU said its air safety list seeks to ensure the highest level of air safety for European citizens as a top priority of the aviation strategy adopted by the Commission in December 2015.
The five airlines were added to the list due to unaddressed safety deficiencies that were detected by the EASA during the assessment for a third country operator authorization, said the bloc.
The European Commission updates and publishes its safety list regularly in order to consider safety audit requests from any airline seeking removal from the blacklist.
An aviation expert who preferred not to be named told Business Chronicle yesterday that the addition of Air Zimbabwe to the EASA safety list was not only detrimental to the national airline.
“You will find out that the addition of Air Zimbabwe onto that list due to unresolved safety concerns by the EASA is not only detrimental to Air Zimbabwe alone. It is also detrimental to the development of CAAZ as Zimbabwe’s aviation sector regulator,” said the expert.
“The ban also entails that the CAAZ general manager (Mr David Chawota) is probably not the right person to head CAAZ as other airlines originating from Zimbabwe risk being banned from flying into Europe.”
Transport and Infrastructural Development Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chair, Dexter Nduna, last year reported in Parliament that Air Zimbabwe was losing $3 million a month and the entity was technically insolvent.
He said the airline was generating an estimated revenue of $2,65 million a month against an operational expenditure of $5,94 million.
The committee called for an urgent review of Air Zimbabwe’s strategic plan to transform the airline into a vibrant entity.
The EU said its air safety has become a major preventive tool, as it motivates countries with safety problems to act upon them before a ban.
Presently, a total of 181 airlines are banned from the EU skies while 174 airlines from 16 countries were certified into the EU.