PIA to challenge EU ban in coming week

Pakistani diplomats engaged in efforts for reversal of decision


July 04, 2020
Pakistani diplomats are engaged in efforts for the reversal of the decision.

LAHORE:

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), along with the country’s diplomats abroad, will file an appeal in the coming week against the six-month ban on national carrier from operating in Europe.

The airline has also sought the assistance of European and UK parliamentarians of Pakistani origin in resolving the matter as the ban is costing it a loss of billions of rupees.

Pakistani diplomats are engaged in efforts for the reversal of the decision.

The European Union Air Safety Agency has suspended PIA’s authorisation to operate in EU member states in the wake of the grounding of 262 Pakistani pilots whose licences were termed “dubious” by Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan.

The EU aviation safety watchdog said it was concerned about the validity of the Pakistani pilot licences following the minister’s statement.

Following the EASA’s move, the UK Civil Aviation Authority also withdrew PIA’s permit to operate from three of its airports -- Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester.

The PIA was operating 23 flights to UK every week – nine to London, 10 to Manchester and four to Birmingham.

The national carrier’s destinations in Europe included Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Oslo and Copenhagen.

The airline will incur a loss of Rs33 billion because of the ban. It is already facing loss of Rs12 billion because it will not be operating Hajj flights this year. The suspension of flights for Umrah passengers has also affected its revenue.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi recently spoke with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell seeking the reversal of the ban.

 He assured the EU official that steps being taken by the government were aimed at ensuring the highest level of flight safety in PIA operations. He added that the national carrier remained committed to maintaining the highest standards and quality in its air operations. The minister stressed the need for the EASA to review its decision.

After the aviation minister’s statement, the UAE is also seeking to verify the credentials of the Pakistani pilots and engineers employed in its airlines.

UAE General Civil Aviation Authority Director General Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi requested the verification of the credentials of Pakistani pilots, aircraft maintenance engineers, and flight operations officers working in the Middle Eastern country in a June 29 letter to Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority Director General Hassan Nasir Jamy.

"We would like to request your good offices to verify the licensing credentials of the attached list of pilots who are currently holding UAE's pilots licences based on licences and qualifications issued by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority," the letter read.

The Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA), the union for PIA's pilots, has alleged that the announcement of the "dubious" licence holders was a planned government move against the pilots to cut their headcount.

"The malicious efforts of some at the helm of affairs with a mindset to cut the pilots down to size have resulted in PIA being reduced to an airline on paper," the union said.

The PALPA rejected the government's list of pilots with licences deemed dubious, and pointed out that it was full of discrepancies, demanding a judicial investigation.

The 262 pilots – 109 commercial and 153 airline transport pilots – were grounded on June 26, pending conclusion of inquiries against them. They included 141 from PIA, nine from Air Blue, 10 from Serene Airline, and 17 from Shaheen Airlines, which has closed down.

After the aviation minister’s revelation, international airlines have also initiated investigations against Pakistani employees.

The civil aviation authorities of Vietnam and Malaysia have grounded all Pakistani pilots working for local airlines.

Qatar Airways and Oman Air have also compiled lists of Pakistani pilots, engineers and ground-handling staff.


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