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PIA Banned From Operating in Europe for Six Months

Pakistan International Airline’s (PIA) spokesman, Abdullah Hafeez Khan, told reports on Tuesday that the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) suspended the authorization for the airline to operate in the bloc for six months.

The decision came after the grounding of 262 pilots from the airline whose licenses were dubbed “dubious” by Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan.

A PIA statement said, “EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorisation to operate to the EU member states for a period of 6 months effective July 1, 2020, with the right to appeal against this decision”.

It further stated that all PIA flights to European countries will be discontinued temporarily. Passengers who had already booked their flights to European destinations will have the option to either delay the flight to another date or get a full refund.

While the decision was to go into effect on 1st July, PIA received two-day relief with landing permissions in Europe and Britain, till 3rd July.

PIA spokesperson said that all flights to and from Islamabad to London, PK785 and PK 786 will operate as per schedule, and an announcement with regard to other flights will be made soon. PIA is also allowed to fly over Europe and Britain.

The EASA referred to the recent investigation by Pakistani authorities in their emailed statement and said it showed a “large share” of the pilots’ licenses to be invalid.

The press release said, “PIA is in contact with EASA to allay their concerns and to take necessary corrective measures along with filing the appeal against the decision”. It continued that 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”.

However, following the EASA decision, the UK Civil Aviation Authority also suspended PIA flight operations from three airports; Birmingham, London Heathrow, and Manchester.

A spokesperson of the UK Civil Aviation Authority said, “Following the decision on June 30, 2020, by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to suspend permission for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate services to the European Union, PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow, and Manchester airports are suspended with immediate effect. The UK Civil Aviation Authority is required under law to withdraw PIA’s permit to operate to the UK pending EASA’s restoration of their approval that it meets international air safety standards.”

Investigations into PIA pilots’ licenses have been going on since a PIA flight crashed into a housing colony in Karachi on 22nd May. The crash killed 97 of the 99 people on board, as well as a child on the ground. Investigative teams found the pilots to be at fault, launching a wide-scale investigation within the airline.

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