The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to maintain the critical separation between politics and aviation safety issues.
The call followed the latest development in events following the incident when Ryanair FR4978 was intercepted over Belarus Airspace and forced to land in Minsk. On 2 June EASA replaced its recommendation (Safety Information Bulletin) for European airlines to carefully assess the risk of flying in Belarus airspace with a blanket prohibition (Safety Directive) on European aircraft entering Belarus airspace.
“Aviation safety must never be politicized. IATA condemned the actions of the Belarus government and called for an independent investigation. Banning European aircraft from using Belarusian airspace with a Safety Directive is also politicization of aviation safety. This is a retrograde and disappointing development. EASA should rescind its prohibition and allow airlines to manage safety as they do each and every day—with their normal operational risk assessments.
“Two wrongs do not make a right. Politics should never interfere with the safe operation of aircraft and politicians should never use aviation safety as a cover to pursue political or diplomatic agendas,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
It would be recalled that on 23 May 2021, Ryanair flight FR4978, while overflying Belarus en-route from Athens to its final destination, Vilnius, was made to divert and land in Minsk by Belarusian authorities.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, EASA issued a Safety Information Bulletin advising airlines to avoid operations in Belarusian airspace. This did not ban European aircraft from using the airspace but required any airline that continued to do so to satisfy themselves that the safety of the aircraft, passengers, and crew, was not at risk. IATA supported this measure as a proportionate response to the actions of the Government of Belarus.
Several airlines have continued to use Belarusian airspace. IATA supports their decision to do so.
On 27 May 2021, the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization decided to undertake a fact-finding investigation into the Belarus incident which IATA fully supports.
On 2 June, after consulting with the EASA Member States and the European Commission, EASA issued a Safety Directive which effectively bans airlines from using Belarusian airspace. IATA does not support this action as it, in effect, politicizes air safety.