Europe bans PIA for six months over ‘fake’ licences scandal

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) suffered a big blow as the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) suspended airline’s operations permit for a period of six months, a spokesperson for the national flag carrier said on Tuesday.

The suspension will take effect on July 1, 2020 at 12 noon UTC time, he said.

Therefore, all PIA flights to Europe have been temporarily cancelled.

“Those who have a PIA booking can advance the date forward or get a refund,” the spokesperson said. “PIA is in constant contact with the agency,” he said, adding: “We are taking steps to address their concerns.”

“It is hoped that the suspension will end soon due to the [remedial] steps taken by the government and the administration,” the spokesperson said.

‘Pakistan not capable to certify and oversee its operators’

The European aviation agency, in its letter, detailed the reasons and the opportunities provided to the airline to improve its safety standards according to the proposed plan.

The national flag carrier was issued with TCO Authorisation on 17 May, 2016 by the European regulator under which an assessment programme was also initated to ensure compliance.

“In the course of EASA’s assessment conducted in accordance with ART.215 of Part-ART, two technical consultation meetings with M/S Pakistan International Airlines Corporation Limited were held at EASA’s premises in Cologne on 13 June 2019 and 3 September 2019.”

“As a result of the analysis of the information obtained by EASA and taking into account the outcome of the aforementioned consultation meetings, EASA raised a total number of six (6) level 2 findings,” the letter read.

Five findings were closed after the implementation of recommendations given to the airline were implemented, it added.

However, the airline “failed” to fully implement the agreed corrective action plan (CAP) related to “Safety Management” despite an extension of the implementation period, the letter pointed out.

“The operator could not demonstrate having effectively implemented all elements of a Safety Management Systems as required by Annex 6 Part 1 and Annex 19 to the Chicago Convention (ref.PAK-OO01/TR-2017-03/04).”

The EASA also noted that after the revelation of Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan that over 260 Pakistani pilots out of 860 were having dubious credentials, it got concerned about the pilot’s licenses issued by Pakistani authorities.

“Based on this information, EASA is concerned about the validity of the Pakistani pilot licenses and that Pakistan, as the State of operator, is currently not capable to certify and oversee its operators and aircraft in accordance with applicable international standards.”

“EASA is required to take adequate enforcement measures in this situation.”

The regulator then notified the airline about the suspension of its authorisation on June 26 and was given an opportunity to voice its opinion on EASA’s intentions.

PIA’s response, however, was declared as “insufficient” by the EASA officials and subsequently, the TCO Authorisation was suspended.

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