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Indonesian Airlines to Be Banned From Flying to European Union

The European Commission says it is banning Indonesia's airlines from entering EU airspace. Joseph Popiolkowski reports for VOA from Hong Kong that the Indonesian industry's reputation has been hit by a series of air disasters.

No Indonesian airlines currently fly to cities in the European Union, but that did not stop the announcement of the ban on flights by Indonesian airlines, which is due to take effect on July 6.

Thursday's move by the European Commission was taken out of concern for consumer safety, it said, and marks the latest in a series of black marks on Indonesia's air safety record.

Luc Citrinot, an air transport consultant based in Bangkok, says he does not expect Asian countries to follow suit with a ban.

"China and especially Japan are heavy investors into Indonesia," said Citrinot. "Japan has a lot of infrastructure projects going on in Indonesia."

"And I think that Indonesia will probably retaliate against these countries in terms of economic contracts and all of that. And it would be a big political embarrassment for all the countries in the region if they take such a decision," he continued.

Indonesia's national carrier Garuda canceled its flights to Rome and Amsterdam in 2005 but hopes to resume those services in 2008. Citrinot says the carrier should be able to continue with these plans because they are planning to lease a fleet of aircraft that meet the EU's requirements.

Albert Tjoeng is spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines around the world. He says the Indonesian government will hold a conference in Bali next week to discuss its safety record, and that representatives from international air safety organizations have been invited.

"It's quite clear that the Indonesian government recognizes that they have an issue with safety and they are being proactive in taking steps to improve the situation," said Tjoeng.

An Indonesian jetliner crashed into the sea on New Year's Day killing all 102 people on board. In March this year, 21 people died in a fiery crash when a Boeing 737 skid off a runway.

Also in March, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, announced Indonesia did not comply with safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The FAA downgraded the country to its lowest possible rating.