PIA to further wait to resume Europe operations as EACA extends flight ban

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DNA

KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will have to further wait to resume its operations in European countries as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has extended its ban on the national carrier.

The EASA’s decision to defer the lifting of the ban is connected to the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) failure to take necessary measures as pointed out by the EU Commission.

The commission, in response to the report submitted by Pakistani officials on May 31, has called on Islamabad to appoint officers with professional qualifications in civil aviation.

With the report revealing that the four-year ban was imposed due to the non-seriousness of the CAA, sources have warned that the non-resumption of flights to European countries may have negative effects on PIA privatisation.

The development comes the EC and EASA had in fact forwarded the decision to the European Air Safety Committee for approval.

However, CAA sources have in fact termed the non-inclusion of Pakistan and PIA’s name in the safety list during the May 31 meeting as a “positive development”, stressing that the airlines of the country included in the said list are banned from entering Europe.

Stressing that the EASA has the authority to lift the ban, the CAA sources have said that Pakistani airlines will be able to operate flights to Europe if the body restores third-country operations for Pakistan.

The EASA is scheduled to meet over the issue of lifting the ban on PIA and other Pakistani airlines this week wherein it is expected that the body might call on the CAA to take additional steps in this regard, the sources added.

Pakistan’s case, the sources added, has been forwarded to the EASA by the EU’s air safety committee.

Flight ban saga

It is pertinent to know that European authorities imposed a ban on the operation of Pakistani airlines in July 2020 after it came to light that pilots possessed “fake” licences, as put by the then aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar.

The ban was a big blow to the airline, which was already under scrutiny across the world due to recently uncovered pitfalls within Pakistan’s aviation industry, such as pilots possessing “fake” licences as put by the aviation minister.

The startling revelations came as the then-aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar presented the interim report on the probe into the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) PK-8303 crash that resulted in the deaths of 85 passengers after the plane crashed in Karachi on May 22, 2020.

Following the report, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expressed concern over the “serious lapse in licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator”.

Subsequently, on June 24, the aviation minister announced that the qualifications of 262 pilots in Pakistan are “dubious” and thus they will be barred from flying.

The pilots that were in the line of fire included 141 from PIA, nine from Air Blue, and 10 from Serene Airline.

The rest of the 262 belonged to flying clubs or chartered plane services, the aviation minister had said. 

It is to be noted that EASA licenses, issued by the European Union, carry weight not only within EU member states but also in numerous other countries.