Chai Time

Airlines criticise EU ban on Belarus flights

PARIS: A leading airline association criticised Friday an EU ban on flying in Belarusian airspace as politicising air safety. EU states have been furious since Belarus last month forced a Ryanair flight crossing its airspace to land in Minsk on the pretext of a bomb threat in order to arrest an opposition activist.

An initial warning to avoid Belarus airspace by the EU’s aviation safety body EASA was strengthened on Wednesday into a formal ban for EU airlines.

“Aviation safety must never be politicised,” the head of the International Air Transport Association, Willie Walsh, said in a statement.

“Banning European aircraft from using Belarusian airspace with a Safety Directive is also a politicisation of aviation safety” that Walsh called “a retrograde and disappointing development”.

IATA, which has condemned the forced landing of the Ryanair aircraft flying between two EU countries, called on EASA to rescind its order.

“Two wrongs do not make a right. Politics should never interfere with the safe operation of aircraft and politicians should never use aviation safety as a cover to pursue political or diplomatic agendas,” said Walsh.

The trade group wants airlines to be able to decide for themselves whether or not to use Belarusian airspace after conducting risk assessments.

IATA represents 290 member airlines that account for over four-fifths of global air traffic.

EASA said later Friday that the objective of its safety directive “is to reduce the potential risk to passengers and crews that could arise from operations in this airspace.”

It recognised that it brings additional costs and work for airlines, but said “safety remains a key driver of the activities and the mission of EASA”.

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