EU Bans Some Iran Air Jets From Europe

Iran Air's Boeing 727s and 747s, along with its Airbus 320s, have been placed on the EU blacklist following a safety audit, the Transport Commission said.

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The EU banned most of Iran Air's jets from flying to Europe because of safety concerns, emphasizing Tuesday that the move was not related to U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

The 27-nation bloc also relaxed restrictions on two airlines from Indonesia and put a Suriname airline on its blacklist of carriers the EU believes do not meet international safety standards.

The list of 278 airlines -- mostly small operations from Africa and Asia -- was established in 2006 and is updated regularly.

Iran Air's Boeing 727s and 747s, along with its Airbus 320s, have been placed on the EU blacklist following a safety audit, Transport Commission spokeswoman Helen Kearns said.

But Kearns denied that the move, which affects two-thirds of Iran Air's fleet, had anything to do with international sanctions.

"We deal purely with safety requirements," she said. "Our controls focus entirely on safety, nothing else."

Iran Air has had trouble properly maintaining its aging Boeing 747 and 727 jets purchased in the 1970s because of a 30-year-old U.S. ban on spare parts.

The airline -- together with a cargo and a low-cost subsidiary -- has more than 60 planes in its inventory. Plans call for many of its older airliners still in service to be replaced by Russian-built Tu-204 medium-range jets starting in 2011.

Iran Air flies to about 60 destinations, mainly in Asia and Europe. Its extensive domestic network covers nearly two dozen airports.

In Tehran, Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Nooshabadi called the EU decision "unfair," saying his company will continue contacts with the EU to remove the ban, the official Irna news agency said Tuesday.

Nooshabadi said Iran Air had answered all EU questions about the safety of its fleet "precisely."

He assured Iran Air passengers there would be no disruption in flights to Europe, since the company would fly the EU-approved Airbus fleet there.

Kearns said two more Indonesian carriers, Metro Batavia and Indonesia Air Asia, have been removed from the latest list of banned airlines, bringing to six the number of Indonesian airlines allowed to operate in Europe.

Three years ago, after a spate of deadly crashes, all Indonesian airlines were excluded from European airspace.

Kearns said Suriname's Blue Wings Airlines has also been placed on the revised blacklist. Although the airline does not fly to Europe, it has routes to the Dutch Antilles and French Guiana.

Critics of the list say most of the notorious African fly-by-night cargo outfits still on the EU list have long since been shut down. Many of the others involve air taxi services or small, specialized charter firms that work for mining, oil and gas and other natural resources companies, usually to transport employees to remote work sites.

The crash last month in Cameroon of a chartered plane carrying the entire board of an Australian mining company highlighted the lack of uniform safety standards among the multitude of small aviation operators serving the industry.