EU's air safety agency suspends Pakistan airliners PIA and Vision Air International from flying to Europe for six months over safety concerns

FP Staff
·4-min read

The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended two Pakistani airliners from flying to the bloc for six months, reports said.

Reuters said that the EASA took the decision due to concerns about the country's ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards at all times.

The Pakistan Internatioanl Airlines (PIA) confirmed the suspension on Twitter stating that it is discontinuing its operation to Europe after the European Union's aviation safety agency banned its flights.

In a tweet, the national air carrier of Pakistan, said that the EASA suspension of PIA flights would be effective from 1 July. However, the PIA can appeal against the EASA decision, PTI reported.

The PIA added that its administration was in contact with the EASA to allay their concerns and to take necessary corrective measures along with filing the appeal against the decision.

According to Reuters, the EASA also suspended the authorisation of Vision Air International. However, it did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

In a statement, the PIA also said that all passengers booked on its flights to European sectors will have the option to either extend their bookings for a later date or get full refunds.

"PIA 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 said.

The EU ban came after Pakistan aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan in a major embarrassment to his nation told the media last week that nearly a third of the PIA pilots had fake licenses.

He also said that at least three crashes in the recent history, including the latest on 22 May, were caused due to negligence of pilots.

As reported by The New York Times, and published in Firstpost, Khan had said that the pilots of the PIA plane that crashed last month in Karachi were busy talking about the coronavirus and repeatedly ignored directions from air traffic controllers before their plane went down, killing 98 people.

As per the report, Khan had said that the air traffic controllers warned three times that the plane was flying too high on its approach to the runway at Karachi's airport and directed it not to land.

"But the pilot ignored these warnings," he was quoted as saying.

A preliminary report on the crash showed that the "PIA pilots also ignored automated warnings in the cockpit and failed to lower the landing gear, causing the plane's engines to hit the runway", the article added.

The world reacted in horror while the Opposition in Pakistan demanded that the minister should be sacked for washing the proverbial dirty linen in the public.

Pakistan has reportedly grounded 262 of the country's 860 pilots, including 141 of the PIA 434 pilots. It has also written to foreign missions and international aviation watchdogs that it was addressing the problem but apparently everybody was not convinced.

However, the list of suspended pilots has generated a controversy of its own.

As per a Reuters report, Pakistani pilots and their union, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA), said that there are discrepancies in government's list of pilots with licences deemed dubious and are demanding a judicial investigation.

PIA and private airline Air Blue have also queried the list with PIA saying 36 of its pilots mentioned had either retired or left the airline, while Air Blue said it no longer employed seven of nine pilots on the list.

"It contains names of highly educated and qualified pilots who have passed all the tests," PALPA's president, Chaudhry Salman, told Reuters.

"We want a fair and impartial resolution to this matter."

An official at Pakistan's aviation ministry, Abdul Sattar Khokhar, said they did not have full details of the discrepancies. "The issue is being sorted out in consultation with airlines and civil aviation authorities."

With inputs from agencies

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