Onur Air Vows To Fight Europe Ban

May 15, 2005

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Turkish budget airline Onur Air has rejected claims that its planes were unsafe and vowed to fight a ban imposed by several European countries.

Germany and the Netherlands temporarily withdrew landing rights from the airline on Thursday, leaving many tourists stranded in Turkey. France and Switzerland also later imposed a ban on the airline.

"The safety claims are not fair. We ourselves would not allow a plane to fly if it had any faults," the airline's deputy chairman Sahabettin Bolukcu said.

He said up to 50,000 passengers had so far been affected by the new restrictions, though many had now reached their destinations using other airlines.

Dutch authorities say Onur Air must take steps to improve safety in the next month if it is to win back landing rights.

Bolukcu said his airline hoped a planned meeting in Amsterdam on Monday of transport officials from Turkey and the European countries concerned would resolve the issue.

"If not, then this will clearly be a decision not against us but against Turkish tourism. We will do all we can to have the bans lifted," he said, adding that the company would seek financial compensation for damages through the courts.

Ankara has lifted a ban on extra German planes coming to Turkey to pick up stranded German tourists, Berlin's Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

The head of Turkey's civil aviation, Topa Bilgetin Toker, told the Radikal newspaper: "Turkish charter flights account for 90 percent of air traffic between Turkey and the Netherlands... The cause of this ban is commercial rivalry."

Radikal quoted transport officials as saying all Turkish airlines conformed to international safety standards.

Onur Air, a low-fare challenger to state-owned Turkish Airlines, has been flying since 1992. It has 26 planes, including five Boeings and 21 Airbuses.

The airline says it transports 1.4 million passengers a year, including 350,000 from the Netherlands. It makes 300 European flights a week, including 75 to the Netherlands.

Turkey is a major tourist destination for Europeans and May marks the start of the main travel season.

(Reuters)