Pakistan International Airlines banned from EU airspace

Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) authorization to fly to the European Union has been suspended for six month by the block’s civil aviation safety authority.

The decision by the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) was a heavy blow to the carrier’s operations, the airline said on Tuesday.

EU safety agency said it took the action because of concerns about Pakistan’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards at all times.

The suspension follows Pakistan’s grounding of 262 of the country’s 860 pilots, including 141 of PIA’s 434, whose licences the aviation minister termed “dubious”.

“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorization to operate to the EU member states for a period of six months effective July 1, 2020 with the right to appeal,” PIA said in a statement.

PIA said it would temporarily discontinue all its flights to Europe but later said it received a two-day relief with landing permission in Europe and Britain granted from July 1 to July 3. PIA is also allowed over flying until further order, the national flag carrier’s spokesman said.

Confirming the move in an emailed statement, the EASA referred to a recent investigation by Pakistan which it said showed a “large share” of pilot licences to be invalid.

Pakistan’s grounding of the pilots followed a preliminary report on a PIA crash in Karachi that killed 97 people last month.

PIA said it is in contact with the EASA to take corrective measures and appeal against the decision with the expectation of the “earliest possible” lifting of the suspension after action by the government and the airline.

The EASA also suspended the authorization of another Pakistani airline, Vision Air International.