Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

16 Jul, 2007

Asia-Pacific Airlines Group Blasts European “Blacklist” of Indonesian Carriers

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) has made clear to European authorities it’s displeasure with the way the blanket blacklisting of 51 Indonesian airlines was assessed and announced, and sought more transparency in the process.

In an interview last week, AAPA Secretary General Andrew Herdman said he had “forcefully” pointed out to the European regulators the commercial impact of such a move and the confusing signals sent out to both the industry and consumers when the EU imposes a blacklist while other regulators like in Japan and Australia do not.

Asked if Indonesian authorities had grounds to sue the EU, Mr Herdman said, “I don’t know on what basis you would question the judgment or which court you would apply to if you try to pursue that. I’m sure the Europeans would say that they are simply implementing the law as it exists in Europe and fulfilling their duties to report on safety.”

Garuda, the national airline of Indonesia, is a member of the Kuala Lumpur-based AAPA, along with 14 other regional airlines.

Last week, while other international travel organisations like the Pacific Asia Travel Association were paying lip-service to the issue by merely making statements “expressing concern,” Mr Herdman was in Brussels raising the matter with the EU along with a number of other issues set to affect Asia-Pacific aviation, such as security and the environment.

Said Mr Herdman, “We’ve had reservations about the whole idea of blacklisting them (the Indonesian airlines) because the criteria for being included on the blacklist were not as clear as they need to be. Nor was the procedure of how one is to be removed from the blacklist. And there needs to be greater transparency.

“I have made the point forcefully to European officials that anybody taking it upon themselves to make these decisions has to recognise the gravity of those decisions in terms of the commercial impact on the market, on the marketplace and on consumers.

“And it must be based on evidence, and that evidence has to be weighed in the context of the overall framework of the industry, and judgments reached.

“In this case, they are within their rights to make that judgment, as far as restricting flights by Indonesian carriers to Europe, but what I think they underestimated is the extent to which this can have an impact, even on the airlines that don’t currently serve Europe, because its been accompanied by rhetoric casting doubts on the safety record of Indonesian carriers in general, and that’s likely to affect confidence in the carriers even from passengers based elsewhere in the world.”

Mr Herdman said that it was noteworthy that both the Australian and Japanese governments have indicated that they have no reason to question the safety of Garuda’s operations to their countries.

“So from a passenger point of view clearly there are conflicting signals and messages as to the safety or otherwise of Indonesian carriers, which is confusing. It makes it clear that respected safety experts in different parts of the word respectfully disagree what the judgment should be on the safety record and on the safety measures of Indonesian carriers.”

Asked why only Indonesian carriers were singled out when airline safety is an issue in many other parts of South and Southeast Asia, Mr Herdman replied:

“(Indonesia) is a large and rapidly growing aviation market. I think it’s the publicity surrounding one or two high profile accidents which have taken place in Indonesia that focussed a lot of attention.

“But the Indonesia authorities have been responding, I believe appropriately, to the perceptions of those events. And I would have hoped the Europeans would not have acted in this way at this time.

“It’s rather incongruous that Europe announced this decision even as the Secretary-General of ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organisation) was meeting and signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indonesian authorities. That may signal the need for closer dialogue and more constructive engagement by both sides, and hopefully that will take place.”

Mr Herdman said he still did not think there were grounds for legal action.

“There is limited scope for legal action given the fact that governments have it within their power to publish such lists. So the issue is more to do with diplomacy and political dialogue.

“I think we have to recognise that the Indonesian authorities have been very clear that they do recognise some of the shortcomings. They’ve said that long before this ban took effect, certainly in recent months, statements have been made about the need to enhance safety and the steps being taken to do that.

“But clearly more needs to be done and certainly more needs to be done to persuade the Europeans and to some extent the American Federal Aviation Administration that those actions are appropriate and are being implemented. And hopefully it will result in the Europeans and Americans revising their opinion of the reported safety regulations in Indonesia.”

Comments are closed.