Air safety agency suspends PIA flights to Europe for six months

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended Pakistan International Airline’s air operations permit for a period of six months, the national carrier’s spokesperson said on Tuesday.

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The suspension will take effect on July 1, 2020 at 12 noon UTC time, he said.

Therefore, all PIA flights to Europe have been temporarily cancelled.

“Those who have a PIA booking can move the date forward or get a refund,” the spokesperson said.

“PIA is in constant contact with the agency,” he said, adding: “We are taking steps to address their concerns.”

“It is hoped that the suspension will end soon due to the [remedial] steps taken by the government and the administration,” the spokesperson said.

‘Fake’ licences, ‘dubious’ credentials

The move is a big blow to the airline, already under scrutiny the world over due to recently uncovered pitfalls within Pakistan’s aviation industry, such as pilots possessing “fake” licences as put by Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan.

The startling revelations came as the minister presented the interim report on the probe into the May 22 PIA plane crash.

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

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

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

The rest of the 262 belong to flying clubs or chartered plane services, he said. He said all the airlines and the clubs had been conveyed that: “Their credentials are dubious, and they shouldn’t be allowed to fly.”

With the back to back developments causing an international uproar, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) on Monday said it had grounded all Pakistani pilots working in the country.

Vietnam had licensed 27 Pakistani pilots, and 12 of them were still active, while the other 15 pilots’ contracts had expired or were inactive due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the CAAV.

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