Europe bans more than 90 airlines from its airports

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More than 90 airlines were banned from landing at European airports yesterday as part of a plan to tighten safety and maintenance protection, after a spate of air disasters.

Regulators from the 25 EU countries, Norway and Switzerland agreed to pool information and prevent 92 airlines, most of which are based in Africa, from flying to any of their airports.

Jacques Barrot, the European transport commissioner, announced the ban on 50 carriers from Congo alone, 14 from Sierra Leone and seven from Swaziland. Some planes used for flights to Europe were "flying coffins", he said.

Officials said the new curbs would not prevent any scheduled airlines currently licensed by European aviation authorities from operating within the EU.

The UK said all the airlines listed were already covered by a British ban.

Yesterday's initiative follows crashes in Greece and Italy last year and an accident in the Red Sea in June 2004 in which 148 passengers on Egypt's Flash Airlines lost their lives. Most of the victims were French.

The high number of listed Congolese airlines was partly due to years of civil war after which old military planes were converted, M. Barrot said. One carrier, Hewa Bora airlines, was subjected to restrictions under which it is allowed to operate only one aircraft on flights to the EU.

One African airline, Air Mauritania, was given a grace period to meet regulations. The EU blacklist also includes Ariana Afghan Airlines, North Korea's Air Koryo and Thailand's Phuket Airlines. Two airlines each from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were listed as well.

Lesser restrictions were placed on Air Bangladesh and Buraq Air from Libya.