It may seem obvious that there should be an Air Safety List that bans airlines that do not sufficiently met international standards. It’s a right that exists within the Chicago Convention. The first words of the convention concern sovereignty. Every State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over their airspace. From the first days of flight the potential use of aircraft to wage war was recognised. Thus, it could be said that the first article of the Chicago Convention existed even before it was written down and agreed.
However, it’s similarly recognised that the future development of international civil aviation has always depended upon agreements between States. Without over-flight and permission to land in another country there is no international civil aviation.
I do remember some agonising over having an explicit list of banned countries and airlines. In a liberal democracy choice is greatly valued. Here the choice concerns passengers being permitted to board aircraft from another country where there is knowledge of safety deficiencies related to the operation of the aircraft of that country. Should the law make that choice for the air traveller, or should the air traveller be free to make an informed choice?
There lies the crux of the matter. How do ordinary citizens, without aviation safety expertise make judgements concerning complex technical information? Understanding the implications of failing to meet the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) is not so easy even for aviation experts.
Additionally, there is the issue of third-party risks. It would not be wise to permit foreign aircraft, whose safety is not sufficiently assured, to fly over a nation’s towns and cities.
Regulatory legislation was framed not only to put airlines on the Air Safety List but to take them off the list too. In fact, sometimes this is harder law to frame. In this case the decisions must be made in a fair, transparent, and technically rigorous manner otherwise the politics of such choices could overwhelm the whole process.
There’s been much success in this endeavour. It’s clear that this is a valuable aviation safety measure. It may have driven some contracting States to improve the performance of their airlines.