JAKARTA - The European Union has removed all Indonesian airlines from its safety blacklist in an acknowledgement of their attempts to improve poor safety standards.
The bloc banned all Indonesian-based airlines from flying to its airspace in 2007 following a string of accidents and reports of worsening safety standards following the deregulation of the country's aviation industry in late 1990s.
However, over the years the EU has lifted the prohibition on seven carriers, including state-owned Garuda and its low-cost subsidiary Citilink, budget airlines Lion Air and AirAsia. That left 55 on the banned list.
Garuda was the only banned airline that flew to the EU but Europeans had been advised not to use other Indonesian carriers for domestic trips such as flights from Jakarta to tourist destinations like Bali or the cultural capital of Yogyakarta.
"I am particularly glad that after years of work, we are today able to clear all air carriers from Indonesia. It shows that hard work and close cooperation pay off," said EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc in a statement on Thursday (June 14).
The move will affect the aviation sector in Indonesia, one of the fastest-growing markets in the world.
Indonesia's domestic aviation sector has long had a patchy record. One of the most recent major incidents occurred in late December 2014 when an AirAsia aircraft crashed into the Java Sea en route from Indonesia to Singapore, killing all 162 passengers on board.
Officials stepped up efforts to improve air safety after that disaster, including raising the price floor of domestic flights and punishing pilots in breach of rules.
An assessment by the International Civil Aviation Organisation in November 2017 noted that Indonesia's flight-safety rank had climbed from 151 to 55.
The EU's measure is also expected to impact Indonesia's emerging tourism sector, a major source of foreign currency.
The country is expecting to welcome 17 million inbound tourists this year, up from 14.04 million last year and 11.52 million in 2016, according to official data.
Tourists from European countries, such as Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and France, have been among the main arrivals.
Aviation expert Gerry Soejatman said the EU step recognises the capability of the domestic aviation regulator to provide adequate safety oversight and surveillance on Indonesian-based airlines.
"The big impact on the industry is not about the possibility of our airlines to fly to Europe, but about aircraft insurance rates, the ability of Europeans to fly using those airlines in Indonesia and have insurance coverage by their European insurers," he told The Straits Times. The EU bans 119 airlines from dozens of countries, such as Afghanistan, Angola and Congo, from its skies.