France and Belgium name banned airlines

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France and Belgium have published for the first time a list of airlines banned from their territories for safety reasons.

The French list is: Air Koryo (North Korea), Air Saint-Thomas (US Virgin Islands), International Air Service (Liberia), Air Mozambique (LAM and Transairways) and Phuket Airlines (Thailand).

The ban has been in force for years but a decision to publish the list was not made until recently, following five crashes in the past month, including one in Venezuela on 16 August that killed 152 French citizens.

Critics said the French list did not go far enough. West Caribbean airways, the Colombian company involved in the Venezuela crash, escaped censure, as did the Turkish airline Fly Air. A Fly Air plane was grounded in Paris for safety reasons on Saturday. The French government is also considering obliging tour operators to tell passengers about airline companies they might travel with.

Belgium also made public the names of nine airlines that it has forbidden to land. The airlines, mostly from central Africa but also from Egypt, Ukraine and Armenia, are cargo companies.

The United States issues a blacklist, but in Europe only Britain has taken such a step. Switzerland will release its list on Thursday. The French and Belgian decisions come ahead of a decision by the European Union on the matter. It wants to issue by the end of 2005 a list compiled by the 25 member states that would show all banned airlines.

* France is to launch a tax on airline tickets next year to help finance the global fight against poverty, President Jacques Chirac said. The idea is still being discussed at international level, but M. Chirac said France hoped to put it in place as soon as possible.