WASHINGTON/RAWALPINDI: In a tough body blow to the national flag carrier, the US authorities on Thursday stopped the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) from operating special flights from the United States, official sources in Washington and Islamabad said.

The sources in the US confirmed the decision was based on an official Pakistani statement saying a number of PIA pilots could be possessing dubious licences/credentials.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has already withdrawn the authorisation granted to the PIA to operate flights to and from its member countries. And several countries, including Malaysia and Vietnam, have started investigations into the credentials of Pakistani pilots and other aviation personnel working in their jurisdictions.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) expressed concern over flight safety and revoked the special permission granted to PIA to operate special flights to and from the United States.

National flag carrier has even been stopped from engaging in non-revenue operations

“This revocation is effective immediately,” an email sent to the Pakistani authorities said. Not only had the PIA’s authority to operate charter flights been rescinded but its engaging in non-revenue operations involving a US point had also been barred, the message added.

The action followed “recent events identified by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority that are of serious concern to aviation safety,” the DOT notification said.

A PIA spokesperson acknowledged the US decision and described it as a “setback to the carrier”.

He said PIA had been granted permission to operate 12 special flights from the US within one year to repatriate Pakistanis stranded there. The airline has so far operated only seven.

However, an official at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington said that American officials had not yet informed them of any such decision.

The official claimed that PIA would continue to operate flights, if and when needed.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2020