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01 July 2020 12:35

Pakistan Eid al-Fitr Egypt

PIA banned from flying to EU states for six months

Insult has been added to injury for the national air carrier as it finds itself banned from flying to the European Union after the emergence of the fake license scandal. Regulators in the European Union (EU) have banned Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) for six months after the state-run carrier grounded nearly a third of its pilots for holding fake or dubious licences, officials said Tuesday. The EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) told PIA "it is still not sure" if all the remaining pilots are properly qualified, and "they have lost their confidence" in the airline, PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan said. The suspension is the latest fallout for PIA after Pakistan's aviation minister told parliament last week that a government review had found 262 of the country's 860 active pilots hold fake licenses or cheated on exams. The EASA said it had suspended PIA and a smaller private Pakistan airline "in view of the recent investigation reported on in the Pakistani Parliament which revealed that a large share of pilot licenses issued in Pakistan are invalid".

Read more: 150 pilots at PIA have dubious licenses: Aviation Minister The EASA said it suspended PIA "due to concerns about the capability of competent authorities to ensure that Pakistani air operators are in compliance with applicable international standards at all times". Earlier, Pakistan's national airline was taking heavy flak after it emerged that nearly a third of its pilots were holding fake or dubious licences, with some observers wondering if the struggling national carrier can survive the scandal. Based on this, Khan said, 40 per cent licenses are "fake", and the pilots don't have the required flying experience.#PIA pic.twitter.com/bRaVJcbY7U — ThebetterPakistan (@ThebetterPak_) June 24, 2020 The PIA fake license scandal has created a ripple of concerns across aviation circles across the world, with many castigating the national flag-carrier for the lapse in regulation. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) this week said it would immediately ground 141 of its 434 pilots after a government review found them to have obtained "bogus" credentials or cheated on exams by having someone else take them. The European Union has allowed the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate flights to and from Europe till July 3, confirmed the national flag carrier's spokesperson on Wednesday.

The spokesperson added that the foreign secretary had contacted European diplomats on an urgent basis after which the national flag carrier was allowed to land in Britain, Europe and fly over them as well. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had suspended PIA's air operations permit for a period of six months, the national carrier's spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan had said on Tuesday. The U.K. Civil Aviation Agency on Tuesday night suspended Pakistan International Airlines flight operations from three airports—Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester—a few hours after the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) similarly suspended PIA's air operations for six months over concerns Islamabad is "not capable to certify and oversee its airline operators." It added that it also did not believe Pakistan was "capable to certify and oversee its operators and aircraft in accordance with applicable international standards" following Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan's claims in Parliament that 262 Pakistani pilots had "dubious" licenses. "The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority is required under law to withdraw PIA's permit to operate to the U.K. pending EASA's restoration of their approval that it meets international air safety standards," they added. Separately, the United Arab Emirates has requested Pakistan to verify the licenses of all personnel employed at its airports, including pilots, maintenance engineers and flight operations officers.

In a letter to Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority, the head of U.A.E.'s aviation body said it was requesting the verification "in the wake of recent announcements by the Minister of Aviation of Pakistan." It urged Islamabad to clarify which, if any, of its personnel had dubious licenses as well as whether any of them were suspects. "We also request a clarification between fake and suspect cases, if any, so we may take immediate actions," it said, adding, "Additionally, the U.A.E. employs a number of Aircraft Maintenance Engineers and Flight Operations Officers who converted their respective licenses issued by Civil Aviation Authority." Also on Tuesday, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA) questioned the discrepancies in the government-issued list of pilots with "dubious" licenses, and demanded a judicial investigation to resolve the situation. According to PALPA, 36 of the 141 PIA pilots on the list have either already retired or are no longer employed with the airline. Similarly, Air Blue said seven of the pilots on the list were no longer working with the airline. It said of the grounded pilots, 141 were from PIA, nine from Air Blue, 10 from Serene Airline, and 17 from the defunct Shaheen Airlines.

In addition to the ban from EASA and the U.K., PIA pilots employed in Vietnam have been grounded, Qatar Airways and Oman Airways have compiled lists of Pakistani staff, and Kuwait Air has also announced it would take action against Pakistani staff. BRUSSELS: The European Union has granted temporary permission to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate flights to and from the continent till July 3, confirmed a spokesperson of the national flag-carrier on Wednesday. The development comes a day after the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) suspended the authorisation for the PIA to serve EU member states for six months amid concerns over the authenticity of licenses held by Pakistani pilots. In another blow to the airline the same day, the UK Civil Aviation Agency also suspended its flight operations from three major British airports — Birmingham, London's Heathrow and Manchester. The spokesperson said that two established PIA flights to and from Islamabad to London – PK-785 and PK-786 – will operate as per schedule.

He confirmed that the airline's administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its diplomats were in contact with European authorities over the issue of allegedly fake licenses. The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended the authorisation for the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate in the bloc for six months, the airline's spokesman said yesterday. 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. PIA is also allowed over flying until further order, the national flag carrier's spokesman said. Confirming the move in an emailed statement, the EASA referred to a recent investigation by Pakistan which it said showed a "large share" of pilot licences to be invalid. 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. Air Blue said seven of the pilots on the list no longer worked for the airline. The Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (Palpa) has also raised doubts about the list.