Indonesia plans rapid air safety program to lift EU ban - minister


Bandung, Indonesia (Thomson Financial) - Indonesia is planning to rapidly improve aviation safety at select airlines in order to prompt the European Union to lift a ban on the country's carriers, the transport minister said Monday.

"Indonesia will try to accelerate the revocation of the ban by proposing a fast-track program," Transport Minister Jusman Syafii Djamal told journalists at a joint air safety conference with the EU here.

Djamal said the program would help four Indonesian airlines -- flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, Mandala Airways, Premiair and Airfast -- improve safety standards to bring them in line with EU levels.

The EU banned flights by all 51 Indonesian airlines in its airspace in June last year, citing safety concerns.

Jakarta has strongly opposed the ban, but has so far failed to sway EU officials. A visit by an EU inspection team last November failed to convince them to drop the ban.

"The four airlines (have been chosen because) we deem them to have the potential to enter Europe and also have cooperation with Europe," Djamal said.

Garuda hopes to reopen flights to Europe, while Mandala has ordered a fleet of European-made Airbus aircraft and Premiair was a charter airline which is often contracted by European countries, he said.

Djamal did not give details of how the government would help the four airlines improve safety standards.

The European Commission's head of aviation safety, Roberto Salvarani, declined to say when the ban may be lifted, but said the conference was part of efforts to help Indonesia improve its air safety practices.

"We intend to ... assist them (Indonesian airlines) in the implementation of the safety measures required. The implementation of these measures will hopefully lead to the lifting of the ban at a certain point in time," he said.

Salvarani said last November's inspections had shown that Indonesian safety practices had not improved enough to warrant a lifting of the ban, but said he was optimistic that things were going in the right direction.

The June 2007 EU ban followed on the heels of several deadly air crashes, including an Adam Air jet that plunged into the sea off Sulawesi island on January 1, 2007, killing all 102 on board, and a Garuda jet which crashed in Central Java in March of the same year with 21 dead.

The EU started its safety ban list in March 2006 after a string of deadly accidents that highlighted the fragmented approach to air safety in the then 25-nation bloc. It has been updated four times since then.

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