Emiliano Sala: Cardiff City calls for commercial transfer flights

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Emiliano Sala playing for Nantes last NovemberImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Emiliano Sala's death "must be a watershed moment", the Air Charter Association said

Cardiff City will insist that agents and intermediaries book only commercial flights when handling player transfers after the death of Emiliano Sala.

Sala, 28, died when the plane carrying him from Nantes to Cardiff crashed late on 21 January, and the legality of the flight has been questioned.

The club said it would be calling on football's governing bodies and other clubs to follow suit.

The aviation trade body believes illegal flights are common in the UK.

Air accident investigators are still looking into why the Piper Malibu plane carrying Sala to Cardiff for his first training session crashed into the English Channel.

The light aircraft was piloted by David Ibbotson, from Crowle, North Lincolnshire, whose body has not been found.

The legality of Sala's flight has not yet been established, but a preliminary report from air accident investigators in February said the pilot was not licensed to carry fee-paying passengers and the plane was not registered for commercial flights.

Cardiff City said it "wholeheartedly" backs the Air Charter Association's (BACA) calls "to secure a review of illegal flights".

"The club has a robust flight policy, but we are putting in place additional processes to protect players and staff," the Cardiff City spokesperson added.

"We will be insisting that intermediaries book only commercial licensed air carriers when handling player transfers."

In the three months since the crash, BACA said it had received reports of illegal flights happening in the UK at a rate of almost one per day.

Image source, AAIB/PA
Image caption,
Air accident investigators' photo showing the rear left side of the fuselage on the seabed

The organisation argued the crash "must be a watershed moment", and called for better enforcement and heavier punishments for pilots and individuals who undertake illegal flights.

"We have long argued that illegal flights are harming the legal air charter industry and putting lives of the travelling public at risk," said BACA chief executive Dave Edwards.

Cardiff and Penarth MP Stephen Doughty supports the calls, adding: "We need to make sure this is never allowed to happen again."