EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

In this file photo, a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane prepares to take-off at Alama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore on Feb. 1, 2012. (REUTERS)
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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.”


PM Khan rules out full lockdown as 1,300 coronavirus hotspots sealed across Pakistan

Updated 14 June 2020

PM Khan rules out full lockdown as 1,300 coronavirus hotspots sealed across Pakistan

  • Khan's announcement comes a day after Punjab government called for a tightening of containment measures in the province
  • Sealing of high-risk areas comes as Pakistan reported 6,472 news cases on Saturday, the country's highest single-day total

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan once again ruled out a comprehensive lockdown in the country during a press conference on Saturday while visiting the coronavirus epicentre of Punjab province which has recorded over 50,000 cases.
A day earlier, a list of recommendations were forwarded by the Punjab government to the Prime Minister, which called for a tightening of containment measures in the province and in particular in Punjab’s largest city, Lahore.
But while addressing a press conference in the provincial capital alongside Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Punjab’s health minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid, Khan said “selective lockdowns” based on tracking and tracing cases would be imposed as opposed to a sweeping lockdown. Khan added the country's administration and police could not take on the huge burden of a complete lockdown.
On Saturday, state-owned Radio Pakistan reported Pakistani authorities had identified and sealed off nearly 1,300 hot spots to contain the rising trajectory of new coronavirus infections.
The sealing of high-risk areas comes as Pakistan reported 6,472 news cases on Saturday, the country's highest single-day total. Pakistan has confirmed a total of 135,702 cases, including 2,593 deaths.
In March, the country put its entire population of nearly 220 million people under lockdown, but the government has since eased restrictions, saying it was necessary to save the country’s economy. The move has caused a huge surge in cases, with healthcare facilities in some cities reporting an inability to cope.
Since then, Khan has consistently resisted demands from experts to reinforce the lockdown and authorities are now using the term “smart lockdown” to close shops and markets where confirmed cases have increased in recent weeks.
Some residential areas were also sealed in the capital, Islamabad, to contain the spread of the virus.
Khan on Saturday said the public had not been taking government mandated SOP’s seriously so far, and warned that there would be "consequences" going forward if COVID-19 protocols were not followed.