European Union retains ban on PIA flights

Published December 4, 2020
The European Commission has decided to retain the ban on Pakistan International Airlines operations in its member countries. — APP/File
The European Commission has decided to retain the ban on Pakistan International Airlines operations in its member countries. — APP/File

RAWALPINDI: The European Commission has decided to retain the ban on Pakistan International Airlines operations in its member countries and asked the country’s aviation authorities to remove safety deficiencies and improve the whole process of issuing licences to commercial pilots.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had suspended the authorisation for the PIA to operate in European Union member countries for six months in July 2020.

The EASA ban was soon followed by similar action by the UK and US aviation authorities, crippling the PIA which was already suffering in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis. The EU had also put Pakistan on notice showing concern over the issue of pilots’ licences citing the aviation minister’s speech on the floor of parliament that one third of Pakistani pilots had suspicious licences.

The EU Air Safety Committee (ASC) met on November 17 and 18 in Brussels to update the list of airlines whose operations had been banned by the European Commission.

Spokesperson says national flag carrier has been working hard to comply with EASA observations

Following the unanimous opinion of the ASC, the European Commission formally adopted on Thursday a regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 474/2006 of March 22, 2006, establishing the list of air carriers, which are subject to an operating ban within the EU.

A copy of the list may be accessed at the following website: https://ec.europa.eu/transport/modes/air/safety/air-ban/index_en.html

A letter sent to former secretary of aviation Hasan Nasir Jamy said the situation of the air carriers certified in Pakistan was examined during the ASC meeting. An excerpt of the regulation with the recitals pertaining to Pakistan was attached with the letter.

The European Commission reported to the ASC about the technical meetings held on July 9 and 25 September 25 and the numerous correspondences received between the end of June and November from the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA).

The EU said that the ASC deliberations confirmed a continued concern over the measures taken by the PCAA in terms of a proper root cause analysis and suitable corrective measures to prevent re-occurrence of the same or similar safety deficiencies.

According to the EU, concern persists about PCAA safety deficiencies, not only on the pilot licencing areas but on the whole licencing and authorisation processes, application and oversight of safety management systems and the establishment of the occurrence reporting system, among others.

It said it had also been recognised that the PCAA was making significant efforts to put in place and enforce some corrective measures to address the identified safety situation in Pakistan.

The European Commission and the ASC have noted the willingness of the PCAA to react to the case of the fraudulent licenses, and also appreciated its transparency and openness in recognising the deficiencies.

“In view of this, it has been decided not to make any changes to the list of air carriers subject to an operating ban with respect to air carriers certified in Pakistan,” the EASA said.

It urged the PCAA to maintain regular contact with the European Commission to keep it informed of the further actions to respond to and deal with the safety concerns.

The former aviation secretary was also informed that the European Commission would continue its monitoring and assessment of how the situation developed further, and this might include a visit to Pakistan when travel conditions would permit it.

The letter said the European Commission would remain committed to working closely with the PCAA to solve in a sustainable manner the identified safety issues with a view to achieving common objective of a safe international aviation system, while at the same time ensuring that any current safety risks were adequately contained.

On the other hand, European Union Aviation Safety Agency, in its letter to PIA Corporation Limited, said the agency had reviewed the material provided by the PIA regarding safety management system and found it satisfactory and sufficient as a fist important step.

The EASA said it would conduct an audit of the third country operator when it would consider the lifting of a suspension of PIA operations when the conditions were met. However, the conditions have not been met yet.

The EASA said in particular the investigation conducted by European Commission on the issuance of professional licenses was still ongoing which indicated that there was a possibility the audit would not have the expected positive results.

Commenting on the EC ban on air carriers certified in Pakistan, the PIA spokesman said that PIA had been working hard to comply with EASA observations as these were unprecedented times.

He said in routine things were taken differently but with added pressure of a ban, synergistic efforts were being made to adhere to the minutest of details.

He said: “Now we are eagerly awaiting regulatory compliance so that we could resume our flights to one of our most productive sectors.”

PIA closes offices

The PIA has closed its all offices in interior of Sindh that had no clients travelling across the country.

PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said that the bulk of PIA operations was shifting to the northern areas, Islamabad and Lahore with most of PIA flights now originating from there and adjoining areas such as Peshawer, Swat, Mardan, Nowshera, Charsada, Rawalpindi, Gujar Khan and Jhelum belt, Kharian and Sialkot belt. Hence the major required staff is to be placed in Islamabad.

He said that there was no point in retaining a large work force in Karachi.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2020

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