Switzerland bans Egyptian and Armenian airlines

Twenty months after coming under fire for keeping secret the names of banned airlines, Swiss authorities said Thursday they had banned Egypt's Flash Airlines and Armenia's Air Van Airlines from landing in the country.

The Swiss Ministry of Transport said it blacklisted the two airlines due to "systematic safety problems."

In January 2004, Swiss authorities were blamed for not passing their safety concerns to other nations after a Flash Airlines charter crashed into Egypt's Red Sea on Jan. 3, killing all 148 on board. After the disaster it became known that the airline had previously been banned from Switzerland.

The issue has gained new urgency in recent weeks following five plane crashes in Greece, Italy, Canada, Peru and Venezuela this summer. Since then, other European countries such as Belgium, France and Britain have made public the names of airlines they banned due to shaky safety records.

Switzerland's blacklist does not include airlines banned in other countries that have no regular routes to and from Switzerland. But the ministry said it would not allow airlines restricted in other countries to reroute flights to Switzerland.

For airlines that were banned in other countries but still are permitted to fly to Switzerland, authorities said they would undertake "heightened safety inspections."

The ministry also said it supported the creation of a European list, including members of the European Union as well as nonmembers like Switzerland.

First efforts to produce such a list are already under way. Concerned about the spate of recent air disasters, European officials said last week the EU planned to publish in early 2006 a list of all airlines banned from flying in the 25 member countries on safety grounds.

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