In statement, the European Union Air Safety Agency has said the decision can be appealed
The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) on Tuesday announced it was “temporarily” suspending Pakistan International Airlines (PIA)’s authorization to operate in member states, less than a week after Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan alleged in Parliament that a third of the state carrier’s pilots possessed fake or “dubious” licenses.
The EASA, in a letter to PIA seen by Newsweek, said it had decided to suspend PIA’s operations both because the airline had failed to implement all elements of a safety management system and due to the concerns raised by the aviation minister. “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,” it said.
Referring to the safety management system, EASA said the organization could not approve additional timelines because the software application proposed by PIA was still under development—with PIA claiming it would be completed in three to four months—and there was no guarantee it would be completed in time. Similarly, it said, safety reports were not processed, and corrective action plans had not been fully implemented despite the deadline being extended from May 24, 2020 to June 17, 2020.
“Moreover, following the recent tragic events that M/S Pakistan International Airlines Corporation Limited has faced, including flight PK8303 on May 22, 2020 and the initial findings laid down in the preliminary accident report showing successive breaches of multiple layers of safety defenses in the safety management system, EASA is concerned that the safety management system is not achieving its primary objective,” it added.
The EASA statement noted that PIA had sought to allay concerns about pilots with dubious licenses. “However, this does not mitigate EASA’s concern, as there are strong indications that a high number of Pakistani pilot licenses are invalid. EASA therefore no longer has confidence that Pakistan, as the state of operator, can effectively ensure that operators certified in Pakistan comply at all times with the applicable requirements for crew qualification,” it added.
The letter states that EASA “may extend the suspension period for additional 3 months” at the conclusion of six months, and warns that the authorization can be revoked outright after the suspension period if EASA “is not satisfied that successful corrective action have been taken.”
According to EASA, PIA has the right to appeal the decision and must file it in writing within two months of the date of the notification. “Pakistan International Airlines Corporation Limited is required to pay a fee when lodging the appeal,” it added.
For now, PIA has discontinued all flights to Europe. Passengers with reservations on PIA flights to European nations would have the option to either extend their bookings to a later date or get full refunds for their ticket prices, according to a PIA spokesman.
A statement issued by PIA said the state carrier was in contact with EASA to allay its concerns and take the corrective measures required to end the suspension. The national flag carrier “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,” it added.
Overall, 262 Pakistani pilots have been grounded due to the aviation minister’s claims. Of these, 109 are commercial and 153 airline transport pilots. They would remain grounded until their licenses have been investigated, says PIA. It said of the grounded pilots, 141 were from PIA, nine from Air Blue, 10 from Serene Airline, and 17 from the defunct Shaheen Airlines.
In addition to the ban from EASA, PIA pilots employed in Vietnam have been grounded, Qatar Airways and Oman Airways have compiled lists of Pakistani staff, and Kuwait Air has also announced it would take action against Pakistani staff.