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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Siem Reap Airways banned from Europe

Siem Reap Airways banned from Europe

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0811177.jpg

The European Commission has criticised the Cambodian carrier’s safety standards and prohibited its planes from landing at European airports

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Passengers checking in for their flights at Phnom Penh International Airport. European regulators say Siem Reap Airways is not fit to fly to Europe.

SIEM Reap Airways International has been banned from operating at European airports by the European Commission (EC), which has called the carrier's safety standards into question.

The EC released an update on Friday to its air carrier "blacklist", banning Siem Reap Airways and other carriers determined not to be in compliance with international standards from operating in Europe.

Siem Reap Airways, a subsidiary of Bangkok Airways International, is licensed by the Cambodian government to offer domestic service between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

"I can't comment at this time," a manager for Siem Reap Airways attending a meeting in Bangkok told the Post Sunday by phone, but added that the carrier would provide a response later this week.

The carrier currently offers no direct service to European Union countries, and Cambodian aviation officials say the ban was mostly likely meant as a precautionary measure.

"Siem Reap does not fly to Europe. Probably the [EC] was giving a warning beforehand, in case Siem Reap Airways planned to open service to Europe," said Him Sarun, chief of Cabinet for the Civil Aviation State Secretariat.

Him Sarun said top civil aviation officials, led by Tea Sutha, secretary of state for civil aviation, Keo Sivorn, director of flight operations, and Chea Aun, director general for civil aviation, went to Brussels last week to discuss Cambodia's compliance with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The ban would not affect current service within Asian countries, Him Sarun said, adding that details from the meeting in Brussels would be released this week.

Tea Sutha told the Post Sunday that aviation officials will review details of the Brussels meeting before making any public statements.

"I will collect all related documents and explain the issues," Tea Sutha said.

Noncompliance

The EU announcement acknowledged that Siem Reap Airways did not provide service to European countries but stated that the carrier "does not operate in compliance" with Cambodian safety regulations.

"Significant concerns have also been expressed by ICAO with regard to the ability of the Cambodian civil aviation authorities to implement and enforce the international safety standards," the announcement stated.

The ban also prohibited air service to Europe from North Korea's Air Koryo, Sudan's Air West, Ariana Afghan Airlines in Afghanistan, Silverback Cargo Freighters from Rwanda, Ukraine's Volare Aviation, Ukraine Cargo Airways, Ukraine Mediterranean Airlines and all carriers from Angola.

"The blacklist is essentially a tool that ensures safer skies in Europe," the news release announcing the ban stated.

"Through this list, Europeans and non-Europeans alike flying in Europe know that there exists a certain degree of safety on which they can rest assured."

The ban casts further doubt on the country's and the region's already dubious air safety record that for Cambodia includes a disastrous plane crash in June 2007 that killed 22 Korean tourists. 

Asia's air safety record is low compared with other regions, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The region's civil aircraft accident rate was up to 2.76 hull losses per million flights, compared with 0.67 in 2007, according to the IATA.

Twenty-three accidents occurred in the Asia-Pacific last year, 19 of them involving passenger flights and the rest cargo. The most common accidents involved planes skidding off of runways.

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