EU decides to retain ban on PIA flights

Ban will remain in effect as CAA has not taken any steps to address the licensing system, says EASA


Our Correspondent December 03, 2020
PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD:

The European Union aviation safety watchdog has decided to retain its ban on PIA from operating in EU member states, expressing its dissatisfaction over the steps taken by the Civil Aviation Authority to address licensing and safety concerns.

However, the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has informed the PIA that it was satisfied with the measures taken by the airline in connection with its safety management system.

The EU aviation safety watchdog, in response to a PIA’s letter, informed the national carrier that as the CAA had not taken any steps to address the licensing system, the ban will remain in effect.

It added that the CAA needed to under a safety audit. The ban can only be lifted if the Pakistani aviation regulatory body cleared the audit.

According to sources, the Aviation Division and the CAA have failed to set up a safety management system despite assuring the international aviation bodies that the required standards would be met.

In June this year, the EASA had suspended the authorisation for PIA to operate in Europe for six months 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 aviation minister told the National Assembly in September that the PIA had suffered a loss of Rs280 million because of flight operation ban in the Europe.

Earlier this month, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) -- a specialised agency of the United Nations – warned that the airlines operating in Pakistan might face a ban to operate in 188 countries in the world over the country’s failure to meet international pilot licensing standards.

The ICAO in its 12th meeting of its 179th session approved a mechanism for addressing Significant Safety Concerns (SSCs) to its member states.

Pakistan being a member state of the ICAO was identified among eight countries that had failed to address the SSCs. The ICAO issued a serious warning to the CAA over the safety concerns.

In its letter dated November 3, the ICAO stated that CAA had failed to meet the international standards regarding the personnel licensing and training in relation to the licensing process for pilots. Therefore, the country’s aircraft and pilots are likely to be barred from flying to 188 countries in the world.

“This will have serious consequences and could be a total disaster for Pakistan’s aviation industry,” a spokesperson for the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (Palpa) said while speaking about the warning issued by the ICAO.

“Palpa had been raising this issue since June 2020 but unfortunately it was neglected by the authorities concerned,” he added. “Palpa had forwarded several options to revamp the system in accordance with the international practices and also given a presentation.”

After the expiry of deadlines of 90 days given by the ICAO, Pakistan along with other four countries will be on the red flag and its registered aircraft and pilots will be barred from flying in 188 countries.

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