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Pakistani airlines soon to be limited to domestic routes?

After failing to meet Pilot licensing standards, Pakistan’s airlines are likely to be banned from flying to 188 countries in the world.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in its 12th meeting of its 179th session approved a mechanism for addressing Significant Safety Concerns (SSCs) from its member states. 

The ICAO issued a warning to the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) over the safety concerns. In a letter dated November 3, 2020, the ICAO stated that the PCAA failed to meet the international standards of pilot licensing. 

The ICAO gave the PCAA 90 days notice, after which Pakistan will be on the red flag and its registered aircraft and pilots will be banned from flying in 188 countries. The ban would be a hard hit to the country’s airlines, still recovering from the financial losses of 2020. It would also leave the airlines with domestic-only routes. 

“This will have serious consequences and could be a total disaster for Pakistan’s aviation industry”, commented a Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association’s (PALPA) spokesperson. He added that the association “had been raising this issue since June 2020 but unfortunately it was neglected by the authorities concerned”. PALPA has requested Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene in the matter urgently. 

On July 1, 2020, the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) suspended Pakistan Airlines (PIA) and Vision Air International from operating flights for a period of 6 months. 

On July 20, 2020, PIA was also prohibited by the FAA from conducting flights to the US after concerns about aviation safety were identified. PIA had briefly been authorized to carry out twelve repatriation flights a month between the United States in Pakistan in April 2020. However, since 2017, the airline had not flown any direct flights to the country over safety concerns.

The suspensions came after the crash of PIA flight PK8303, when the airline’s crew was found guilty for the accident. It was revealed that as many as 262 pilots out of 860 active pilots had questionable credentials to operate aircraft. 141 pilots from PIA, 9 from Air Blue and 10 from Serene Airline were suspected of having fake licenses. 

Following an internal probe, PIA laid off 60 pilots, of which 28 were sacked for holding fake licenses. 28 were dismissed for holding fake credentials, and a number of them were fired for unjustified absence or general incompetence.

 

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