Nepal’s Yeti Airlines is not the only carrier — or country — with a questionable safety record

The Yeti Airlines plane crash in Nepal – which killed all 72 people on board, including a Sydney teacher – has raised questions about the safety of flying in other countries frequently visited by Australians.

Back in 2013, the European Union banned all 20 Nepalese airlines – including Yeti Airlines – from flying to the European Union.

It implemented the ban after the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) raised concerns about safety standards that all member states must follow.

Several other countries frequently visited by Australian tourists have also been scrutinized for their flight safety records.

Civil aviation authorities in ICAO member states, such as Nepal, have an obligation to monitor safety across their aviation sectors.

According to RMIT University associate professor of aerospace engineering and aeronautics, Chrystal Zhang, this means that governments need to ensure that there are laws and operational standards in place so that their national aviation industries are safe.

Dr Zhang told the ABC that – in addition to regulations introduced by governments – airlines and airports must develop their own security management systems.

“That can be very broad, covering every element of operation throughout the airline, from personnel, license management, to maintenance, to daily operations to operational manuals,” Dr Zhang said.

She said these standards must be maintained permanently to be effective.

Indonesian investigators are examining machinery from the fatal Lion Air flight
The wreckage of a Lion Air plane that crashed into the Java Sea, Indonesia.(AP Photo: Achmad Ibrahim)

Which countries and airlines have questionable safety records?

The EU air safety list – which details all airlines banned in the 27-member bloc – provides the clearest indication of which countries and airlines are unsafe to fly to, according to Dr Zhang.

There are planes from 21 countries, mostly from Africa, on the list of banned airlines.

Commercial aircraft from Venezuela, Suriname, Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Libya, Nepal, Russia, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone and the Sudan on the EU list.

Iran Air and North Korea’s Air Koryo are subject to operational restrictions in the EU.

Passengers walk in the departure area of ​​Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
The European Union has a blacklist of airlines that do not fly to their member countries.(Reuters: Sarah Meyssonnier)

Dr Zhang said the EU only blacklists countries when it is not confident with the oversight capability of a nation’s civil aviation regulator.

If a nation’s aviation sector is deemed unsafe, the EU can ban all registered airlines from that country until improvements are made.

The same can be applied to individual airlines.

“It’s one of the very reliable resources that people can refer to … and they’re constantly updating the list,” she said.

Several countries and airlines and destinations popular with Australians were put on the list but have since been removed.

All 51 Indonesian airlines were banned from flying to the EU in 2007, including national carrier Garuda, due to declining safety standards.

The ban on Indonesian carriers was lifted in 2018.

There have been at least two deadly commercial jet plane crashes in Indonesia since 2018, including Lion Air Flight 610 and Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 – both Indonesian planes that crashed into the Java Sea.

Indonesian Navy divers show parts of a plane recovered from the water
Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 crashed into the Java Sea after taking off from Jakarta in 2021.(AP photo)

Airline consultant Neil Hansford told the ABC that Indonesia’s aviation safety record has improved, mostly because international carriers fly from elsewhere, forcing local airlines to improve safety standards.

“Indonesia was a place you don’t want to be. It’s not in that status [any more],” he said

Mr Hansford said the same applies to Thailand, which the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) International Aviation Safety Assessment Program found – in November 2022 – does not provide adequate safety oversight that meets ICAO standards.

“The good thing is that you can get reliable Australian carriers … and those countries fly with all the disciplines you would expect from an Australian carrier.”


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