In March of 2006 the European Commission released their first list of airlines they determined to be “unsafe” according to a series of standards decided upon by the commission. This created what is now widely regarded as the last word on which airlines you probably shouldn’t fly if safety is your major concern, each one being banned from arriving at airports of the European Union. There are roughly 150 airlines on the list, most of which you’ve probably never heard of before with about 60 of those under the oversight of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The inclusion of an airline is due primarily to safely and/or maintenance violations or concerns.
The question arises of whether you should fly these airlines if you need to. While their safety record may not meet the strict guidelines imposed upon them by the EU commission, there may still be good reason to travel with these guys. First and foremost you may have no other choice. Normally AirTreks won’t add a blacklisted airline to your itinerary, nor is it always necessary as there are usually several safe and dependable airlines going to the same place. But every so often there is no other good option. Usually a blacklisted airline has a very small route map, often flying once or twice a week between two cities with limited capacity, but if you need to get from somewhere such as Douala, Cameroon to Kinshasa it may be your only option to fly Hewa Bora Airways.
Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you want to fly a blacklisted airline. More often than not problems arise with these airlines simply because of delays, cancellations or a generally chaotic and unpleasant flying experience, which may not always be well-received in the middle of a complicated international itinerary. Royal Air Nepal was a great inexpensive option for the popular Kathmandu to Bangkok route but was eventually overlooked after a series of canceled flights that left many of their passengers stranded in Nepal.
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Some airlines make the best of their time and publicity spent under blacklisting warnings by revamping the quality of their business. For example, Garuda Indonesia just made the leap out of the blacklist mire with plans to double its fleet with 60 new aircraft ordered along with the announcement that it’s aiming for a five-star Skytrax rating by the year 2014.
If you find yourself in a position to take an airline on the EU’s blacklist, don’t necessarily head for the nearest bus station. Just make sure to call and reconfirm your flight a few days ahead of time to make sure it’s operating when you think it is. And perhaps just take your luggage with you on board.