Pakistan's PIA to file appeal against Europe entry ban, gets temporary relief

Muzaffar Rizvi/Dubai
Filed on July 1, 2020
pia crash, pakistan flights, europe ban, easa, pia fake pilots

(Reuters file)

Pakistani airline hopes that the suspension will be revoked with its confidence-building measures soon.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will file an appeal against suspension of its flight operations for six months by the European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) and is confident of getting the decision reversed soon, the airline said.

In a series of tweets, the national flag carrier said it is in touch with Easa to allay their concerns and hoped that the suspension will be revoked with its confidence-building measures soon.

"PIA has the right to appeal the decision within two months of June 30," according to the airline official.

The airline further said its flights PK719 from Lahore to Milan and PK720 Milan to Lahore on July 1 will operate as per schedule. The flights PK785 from Islamabad to London Heathrow and PK786 from London Heathrow to Islamabad will also operate as per intended schedule, it tweeted. 

"PIA would discontinue all its flights to Europe temporarily as the Easa has suspended the airline's authorisation to operate to the EU member states for a period of six months effective July 1, with the right to appeal against this decision," according to a PIA statement.

The national carrier sincerely hopes that with reparative and swift actions taken by the Pakistan government and PIA management, earliest possible lifting of this suspension can be expected, the statement added.

The Pakistani national flag carrier flies to most European capitals, including Paris Charles De Gaulle, Rome Fiumicino and Amsterdam. In the UK, PIA flies to London Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester.


Temporary relief granted

Meanwhile, the European Union has allowed the PIA to operate flights to and from Europe till July 3, the airline spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday.

"The PIA administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Pakistani diplomats were in constant contact with European authorities over the matter. After high-level intervention, PIA is allowed to land in Britain, Europe and fly over them as well," the spokesperson told Khaleej Times.

'Discrepancies in list'
Last week, Pakistan's Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan announced the grounding of 262 airline pilots suspected of dodging their exams. Majority of these pilots belong to PIA (141) and the list also includes pilots of Airblue (9), Serene Air (10), and Shaheen Airlines (17).

The PIA said the proposed list showed discrepancies as 36 pilots on it had either retired or moved out.

The second largest national carrier Airblue said seven of the pilots on the list are no more working for the airline while Shaheen Airlines has already grounded its fleet since 2018 due to financial crisis.

Saj Ahmad, an analyst at London's StrategicAero Research, PIA's ban in Europe doesn't come as a surprise. It has been banned before over maintenance concerns.

"Critically, the recent May 2020 Airbus A320 crash in Karachi and the discovery of fake pilot licences will have exacerbated Easa's concerns that the PIA is not fit for safe transit or travel within the region," Ahmad said. 

"Longer term, PIA needs to be spun off and let market forces dictate how its future lies. That will mean job cuts for sure, but without it, PIA in its current form will always stay a loss-making entity," he added.

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