Hundreds of Pakistanis stranded in Saudi Arabia return home on special flight

Pakistani nationals wait for a special flight to Karachi at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport on May 31, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Consulate General in Jeddah)
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Updated 02 June 2020

Hundreds of Pakistanis stranded in Saudi Arabia return home on special flight

  • This was the eighth PIA special flight to bring Pakistani nationals back from the Kingdom
  • Earlier, over 15,000 Pakistani Umrah pilgrims were brought home on special flights 

ISLAMABAD: A repatriation flight with 251 stranded Pakistanis on board departed for Karachi from Jeddah, the Consulate General of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia said in a statement on Sunday.
This was the eighth special flight of the national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), from Jeddah following the coronavirus related suspension of routine international flight operations in the Kingdom on March 15.
“Consul General Khalid Majid and Deputy Consul General Shaiq Ahmed Bhutto were present at Jeddah International Airport to bid farewell to the passengers,” the statement said.

“A total of around 1,700 Pakistanis have so far been repatriated from Jeddah region through seven special flights,” the statement added, and said similar special PIA flights were also being operated from Riyadh region.




Consul General Khalid Majid Bhutto bids farewell to Pakistani nationals departing from Jeddah on a special repatriation flight to Karachi on May 31, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Consulate General in Jeddah)


“Embassy of Pakistan at Riyadh and the Consulate General at Jeddah in close cooperation of PIA, are coordinating arrangements of these special flights in their respective jurisdictions.”

Saudi Arabia halted all international travel and suspended Umrah pilgrimage in response to the pandemic in March this year.

Over the months, Pakistan has brought back over 15,000 of its nationals who had gone to Saudi Arabia for Umrah but found themselves stranded amid coronavirus lockdowns in the Kingdom.


EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

Updated 01 July 2020

EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

  • The step has been taken due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards
  • PIA expects the ‘earliest possible’ lifting of suspension after action by the government and the airline

ISLAMABAD: The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) authorization to fly to the bloc for six months, the airline said on Tuesday, in a major blow to the country’s flag carrier.
Separately, the safety agency said it took the action due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards at all times.
The suspension follows Pakistan’s grounding of 262 of the country’s 860 pilots — including 141 of PIA’s 434 — whose licenses the aviation minister termed “dubious.”
“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorization to operate to the EU member states for a period of six months effective July 1, 2020 with the right to appeal,” PIA said in a statement. It added it would temporarily discontinue all its flights to Europe.
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 licenses to be invalid.
Pakistan’s grounding of the pilots followed a preliminary report on a PIA crash in Karachi that killed 97 people last month.
PIA said it is in contact with the EASA to take corrective measures and appeal against the decision, adding that it expected the “earliest possible” lifting of the suspension after action by the government and the airline.
The EASA also suspended the authorization of another Pakistani airline, Vision Air International.
Vision Air International did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Following the EASA’s decision, the UK Civil Aviation Authority said it, too, was withdrawing PIA’s permit to operate from three of its airports, as required under law.
“PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester airports are suspended with immediate effect,” a spokesman for the UK authority told Reuters.
The three were major flying destinations for the airline.
Meanwhile, Pakistani pilots and their union, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA), say there are discrepancies in the government’s list of pilots with licenses 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.”