Setback for PIA as Europe bans airline for six months

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By Shakeel Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) suffered a big blow as the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) suspended airline’s operations permit for a period of six months, a spokesperson for the national flag carrier said on Tuesday.
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 advance 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 scandal
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 “dubious” credentials or “fake” licences as put by Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan. The minister on Friday had announced that the credentials of 262 pilots 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.”
Last week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had expressed concern over the “serious lapse in licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator”.
The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended the authorisation for the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate in Europe for six months, the airline’s spokesman said on Tuesday. The move follows the grounding of 262 pilots  whose licences Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan termed “dubious”.
“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorisation to operate to the EU member states for a period of 6 months effective July 1, 2020, with the right to appeal against this decision,” a PIA statement said. It added that PIA would discontinue all its flights to Europe temporarily. All passengers booked on its flights to European destinations will have the option to either extend their bookings to a later date or get a full refund. “PIA is in contact with EASA to allay their concerns and to take necessary corrective measures along with filing the appeal against the decision,” the press release said.
The national flag carrier “sincerely hopes that with reparative and swift actions taken by the Government of Pakistan and PIA management, earliest possible lifting of this suspension can be expected”, it added. Airline pilots and their union have raised questions about the government list of pilots with alleged dubious credentials, saying it is full of discrepancies.
Aviation Minister Khan’s announcement last week of the grounding of 262 airline pilots suspected of dodging their exams had caused global concern. The minister said the pilots included 141 from PIA, nine from Air Blue, 10 from Serene Air, and 17 from Shaheen Airlines. The PIA said the list showed discrepancies once the airlines received it.