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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Siem Reap Airways still blacklisted

Siem Reap Airways still blacklisted

EU keeps Cambodian airline on its list of banned carriers despite assurances that it was never a safety concern, as Siem Reap Airways works with the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation in bid to have European Union decision overturned.

THE European Union says it has kept Siem Reap Airways on a blacklist that prevents airlines from landing at its airfields or flying into EU airspace.

In a statement released late Tuesday, the EU did not explain its decision to maintain its ban on the Cambodian airline - a ruling it first enacted in November - but said that any barred airline that felt it had later conformed with necessary safety standards "may request the commission to commence the procedure for its removal from the list".

The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) said Wednesday that a team led by Director General Chea On was currently in place collating "technical documents" to be submitted to the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICOA) in a bid to have Siem Reap Airways removed from the blacklist.

"We will meet the standards of the ICOA," Mao Havannal, secretary of state for the SSCA said. "We will reopen [Siem Reap Airways]."

We will meet the standards of the ICOA.... We will reopen [Siem Reap Airways].

The EU initially blacklisted the airline on November 14 following an ICOA audit that found Cambodia's civil aviation operations wanting in a number of areas, particularly safety.
The SSCA has since been reluctant to discuss fundamental details of the audit that were not publicly released by the ICOA.

Chea On was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

In its original statement notifying the airline of the blockade, the European Commission said that "[Siem Reap Airways] does not operate in compliance with the Cambodian safety regulations, nor does it meet the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)".

It added: "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."

However, the airline maintains it was in full compliance, a position it reiterated on Wednesday.

"Siem Reap Airways has never had a safety issue," new CEO and Managing Director Terence Alton told the Post, adding that the issue was between the SSCA and the ICAO and EU, not with the airline specifically.

Given that Siem Reap Airways was the only Cambodian airline operating at the time, it was the only one affected, he said.

Following the EU blacklist, the airline last year posted a notice on its Web site saying that all domestic flights were to be suspended from November 22 and all international flights from December 1. The airline hasn't flown since.

Bangkok Airways - which runs Siem Reap Airways as a subsidiary - flew in its place on previous routes between Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

The airline had never flown into European airspace, but Alton said that its reputation following the EU blacklist had been tarnished, not least because many travellers to Cambodia are from Europe.

"If a perception is generated that an airline is unsafe, from a business point of view, you're throwing money away," he said.

Airline still confident
Alton added that he remained "confident of fulfilling every requirement" of both the SSCA and ICAO as Siem Reap Airways worked with the authorities in a bid to lift the blacklisting, admitting that his staff currently had very little to do given that the airline was still grounded.

It was not immediately clear, however, how Cambodia's blacklisting might affect the forthcoming launch of Cambodia's latest national carrier - Cambodia Angkor Air - on July 27.

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