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Fake licences scandal: PIA banned from flying into Europe, UK

Top Story

July 1, 2020

LONDON: The United Kingdom and European Union (EU) have suspended the flight operations of Pakistan's national carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to and from their airports following controversial statement by Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan that nearly 300 PIA pilots have suspected licences.

On June 30, the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) suspended the authorisation for PIA to operate in Europe for the next six months. Similarly, The UK's Civil Aviation Agency suspended PIA's flight operations from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester effective immediately.

The move follows the grounding of 262 Pakistani pilots whose licences the country’s aviation minister termed “dubious”.

“The EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorisation to operate to the EU member states for a period of six months effective July 1, 2020 (today) with the right to appeal against this decision,” a PIA statement said.

A spokesperson for the PIA confirmed the development in an exclusive conversation with The News. He said, “EU has suspended PIA for six months which is starting from 1 July, 2020. This ban comes in the aftermath of the pilots’ licence controversy which severely disrupted the confidence of the EU.”

The spokesperson confirmed that the PIA was dedicated to implement new confidence building measures which would try to get this decision reversed as soon as possible. As far as the same development in the UK was concerned, the spokesperson said he had not received official correspondence in that regard as of the present moment.

Speaking to The News, a spokesperson for the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (UKCAA) said: “Following the decision on 30 June 2020, by the EASA to suspend permission for PIA to operate services to the European Union, PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester airports are suspended with immediate effect.

“The UK Civil Aviation Authority is required under law to withdraw PIA’s permit to operate to the UK pending EASA’s restoration of their approval that it meets international air safety standards.”

There are over 1.6 million British Pakistanis in the UK who regularly travel to and from the UK to Pakistan. Previously, PIA flew 25 flights to the UK every week with 7,500 passengers flying.

Prime Minister Imran Khan told the Parliament he would reform PIA and other government institutions.

“I want to tell my nation: We have no other option, reforms are inevitable,” he said Tuesday.

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said reforms aimed at restructuring PIA would be completed by the end of the year.

On May 22, a PIA flight crashed into houses in Karachi, in which 97 people aboard the plane were martyred and a child on the ground also lost his life. Investigators blamed two pilots, who were chatting about the coronavirus while they first attempted to land the Airbus A320 without putting its wheels down.

APP adds: The PIA said it had been allowed overflying over the European air space, besides getting a four-day breather to operate flights for the stranded Pakistanis.

A late night announcement, the PIA said its three destinations, including Oslo, Milan and Paris, would be effected by the ban by EASA, however, no restriction had been placed on overflying.

The PIA would be filing an appeal next week and would try to sort out the issue within the shortest possible time, sources told this news agency.