European Union ban on Nepali airlines remains even after five years

Kathmandu, December 1

Lack of improvement in safety oversight by the country’s aviation regulator has led the European Commission to continue its ban on all Nepali airlines from flying within the 28-nation bloc of the European Union.

Mentioning that the European Aviation Agency found no change in the country’s five-year-old status as far as air safety is concerned, the commission stated that all Nepali air carriers were still prohibited from flying into the EU.

“All Nepali airlines are still subject to an operating ban due to lack of safety oversight by the aviation authorities,” EC stated in its updated air safety list which was made public in Brussels yesterday.

The EC placed Nepal among 15 nations facing such a ban, meaning all air carriers certified by the Civil Aviation Authority

of Nepal have been banned from operating within the EU, the European Agency stated in a press release.

An update of the air safety list is based on the unanimous opinion of the aviation safety experts from the member states who attended the EU Air Safety Committee meeting chaired by the EC with the support of the European Aviation Safety Agency from

November 13 to 15. “A total of 115 airlines are banned from EU skies.”

The EC blacklisted Nepal, placing restrictions on Nepali airlines, for the first time in 2013 immediately after the International Civil Aviation Organisation raised significant safety concerns. The ICAO, however, removed Nepal’s aviation from its blacklist in July 2017.

A senior CAAN official said continuation of the EU ban was expected. “The EU recently sent a list of 43 questions to CAAN raising serious concerns about its continued failure to address air safety shortcomings,” he said, adding that CAAN had failed to convince EU air safety experts about any improvement made.

Aviation stakeholders believe that to a large extent CAAN bigwigs were to blame for continuation of the ban as they deliberately misreported and did not properly inform the EC about improved air safety standards here as per the ICAO findings.

CAAN officials even misreported to the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari about the progress made in removing the EU ban in June, a senior ministry official told THT. “Based on CAAN briefing, Adhikari, in a public statement, had claimed on June 22 that EU would be removing its ban on Nepali airlines within three months.”The continuation of EU ban comes at a time when the Nepal Airlines Corporation aims to operate two wide-body aircraft to European destinations and the country aims to attract over one million tourists annually, according to the official.

EC clarified that the assessment was made against international safety standards, and notably the standards promulgated by ICAO.

Stating that the EU Air Safety List seeks to ensure the highest level of air safety for European citizens, which is a top priority of the commission’s aviation strategy, the Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said, “Our objective is to offer the highest level of safety in European skies. The EU’s Air Safety List remains one of our most effective tools to achieve this.”

The EASC member states will hold next meeting in May-June to update the air safety list. Until then, Europe is off limits to NAC’s A330s.