China de-escalates airline spat with US

Air China and China Eastern planes wait at the gates at Los Angeles International Airport. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 June 2020

China de-escalates airline spat with US

  • On Wednesday the US said it would block Chinese passenger flights from June 16

BEIJING: China said Thursday foreign airlines blocked from operating in the country over virus fears would be allowed to resume limited flights, apparently de-escalating a row with Washington following US plans to ban Chinese carriers.

Beijing’s announcement comes as tensions between the world’s two superpowers are sent soaring by a series of issues including Donald Trump’s accusations over China’s handling of the pandemic, Hong Kong and Huawei.

The latest spat was rooted in the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) deciding to impose a limit on foreign airlines based on their activity as of March 12. Because US carriers had suspended all flights by that date their cap was set at zero, while Chinese carriers’ flights to the US continued.

On Wednesday the US said it would block Chinese passenger flights from June 16, raising concerns of another front being opened up in the economic titans’ standoff.

But the CAAC on Thursday said all foreign airlines not listed in the March 12 schedule would now be able to operate one international route into China each week.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian expressed regret over the US decision, adding that the CAAC is making “solemn representations” over the matter.

Asked if the latest CAAC notice means the US will be able to file applications for flight resumption, Zhao said the Chinese aviation authority and US Department of Transportation have maintained close communication over flight arrangements between the two countries.

“Originally, both sides had made some progress,” he said at a regular briefing, adding that China hopes the US will not “create obstacles” for both parties’ work to solve the problem.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have become increasingly strained in recent months after Trump accused China of causing the virus intentionally, while a plan to impose a strict security law on Hong Kong has increased tensions substantially.

The US has also imposed restrictions on Chinese telecom giant Huawei and ordered a probe into the actions of Chinese companies listed on American financial markets.

For its part, Beijing has mocked the US stance on Hong Kong in light of civil rights protests across the US following the police killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man.

At the same time, China has gradually relaxed strict air travel caps on some foreign firms as the coronavirus outbreak in the country appears to be under control.

China has set up fast-track entry procedures for business travelers from several other countries, including Singapore and South Korea. Hundreds of Germans have also been able to return.

Beijing said last week it would almost triple the number of permitted flights to and from China in June following an outcry from Chinese stranded abroad.

Passengers must be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival in the country.

The CAAC said Thursday that routes whose passengers all test negative for three consecutive weeks will be allowed to operate an additional flight each week.

Routes with five or more passengers testing positive will be suspended for at least one week, CAAC said.


Malaysia to reinstate pilots once Pakistani licenses OK’d

Updated 07 July 2020

Malaysia to reinstate pilots once Pakistani licenses OK’d

  • 30 percent of pilots grounded including 107 in foreign airlines

KUALA LUMPUR: The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) will reinstate Pakistani pilots as soon as Pakistani authorities verify their permits, an official told Arab News on Monday, after their temporary suspension due to a fake license scandal. 

Pakistan grounded almost 30 percent of its pilots last week after the country’s Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said that they might have falsified their qualifications. 

Pakistan has 860 pilots, 107 of whom work for foreign airlines.

“The CAAM has sent two letters requesting verification from PCAA (Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority) as well as to inform them on the temporary suspension of Pakistani license holders in Malaysia,” Nurilya Anis Rahim, a public relations officer at CAAM, said in an email. 

Rahim added that the pilots’ licenses had been put on hold until further information from the PCAA.

“We are currently still waiting for a response from PCAA. Once an official confirmation has been made, we will reinstate these pilots with immediate effect.”

Captain Chester Voo, CAAM CEO, announced that it would temporarily suspend 20 Pakistani pilots employed with “local operators” such as flying schools, flying clubs and training organizations.

Rahim said that the decision was taken to ensure the safety and security of Malaysia’s civil aviation industry. 

“It is to ensure that all employed pilots in this country hold a valid license and abide by Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Regulation.”

The UK, EU and Vietnam have banned Pakistani pilots and barred Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) operations as well.

One analyst said that Malaysia’s stand was part of its “zero-compromises” approach.

“Malaysia has always taken a conservative stance which includes a zero-compromise on the integrity of certification and qualification of pilots,” Rizal Kamaruzzaman, a Malaysian aviation expert and executive director of Tindakan Strategi, told Arab News.

He added that the joint verification approach was an excellent opportunity for regulators in Pakistan and Malaysia to “clean” the register and weed out all pilots with dubious qualifications. 

“The move by the CAAM will also alert the rest of the airlines and general aviation aircraft to review the technical crew manifest flying into Malaysia and will definitely have a ripple effect on the aviation sector.”

He urged aviation regulators from other countries to learn a lesson from Pakistan.

“The trust and mutual recognition among regulators are a sacred pact to ensure safety for aircraft, pilots, crews, engineers and the main client that are the passengers are not compromised anywhere around the world,” he said.

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