After EASA move, UK aviation industry suspends PIA flights from three airports

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The UK Civil Aviation Agency has suspended Pakistan International Airlines flight operations from three airports — Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester.

The move on Tuesday follows the decision by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to suspend PIA’s air operations permit for a period of six months over concerns that Pakistan is “not capable to certify and oversee its airline operators”. 

It comes after the grounding of 262 Pakistani pilots whose licences aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan termed “dubious”.

A spokesperson for the UK authorit told Geo.tv: “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.”

UK consumers intending to travel via PIA flights from either of these airports have been advised to follow instructions provided here.

A spokesperson for PIA confirmed the development in a conversation with Geo.tv. He said, “EU has suspended PIA for six months, starting from July 1, 2020. This ban comes in the aftermath of the pilots’ licence controversy which severely disrupted the confidence of the EU.”

The spokesperson said that PIA was dedicated to implement new confidence building measures and would try to get this decision reversed as soon as possible. As far as the same development in the UK was concerned, the spokesperson said he had not received official correspondence in that regard as of the present moment.

There are over 1.6 million British Pakistanis in the UK who regularly travel between the UK and Pakistan. Previously, PIA flew 25 flights to the UK every week with 7,500 passengers flying.

Prime Minister Imran Khan told the parliament he would reform PIA and other government institutions.

“I want to tell my nation: We have no other option, reforms are inevitable,” he said Tuesday.

Aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said reforms aimed at restructuring PIA would be completed by the end of the year.

On May 22, a PIA flight crashed into houses in Karachi, killing 97 of 99 people aboard the plane and a child on the ground. Investigators blamed two pilots, who were chatting about the coronavirus while they first attempted to land the Airbus A320 without putting its wheels down.

UAE sends lists for scrutiny of credentials

Separately, the United Arab Emirates has requested Pakistan to verify the licenses of the personnel working in the oil producing country’s airports — pilots, maintenance engineers and flight operations officers.

The head of UAE’s aviation body, in a letter to Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority’s director-general, said: “In the wake of recent announcements by the Minister of Aviation of Pakistan […] We request your offices to verify the licensing credentials” of those pilots who are working in UAE based on qualifications issued by CAA.

The UAE also demanded that Pakistan clarify which of the personnel had fake licenses and who were suspects.

“We also request a clarification between fake and suspect cases, if any, so we may take immediate actions,” it read. 

“Additionally, the UAE employs a number of Aircraft Maintenance Engineers and Flight Operations Officers who converted their respective licences issued by Civil Aviation Authority,” the letter added.

The aviation authority requested “confirmation” for whether the “integrity” of the aforementioned types of personnel was compromised in any way.

The aviation body, along with the letter, has attached a list of nearly 50 airport personnel for scrutiny.

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