RAWALPINDI: The Senate Standing Committee on Aviation has questioned the suspension of Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) flights to European countries and called it a deliberate move to favour the airlines from Gulf countries.

The committee, headed by Senator Hidayatullah, met at the Parliament House on Thursday and took up the matters pertaining to the quality of services provided by PIA. The committee asked the aviation ministry about the steps taken to ease the restrictions imposed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, which suspended PIA’s permission to operate flights to the EU in July 2020.

The committee members said the move favoured the Gulf airlines as they transported passengers looking for a direct flight to the continent.

Senator Hidayatullah directed the aviation ministry to take up the matter with the foreign ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and discuss a way forward for lifting the restriction.

Parliamentary body calls move a deliberate act to favour airlines from Gulf countries

The CAA director general told the committee that the restriction to operate flights to the EU states is expected to be lifted in March next year.

The committee was informed that the national flag carrier suffered a loss of around Rs100 billion due to the suspension of flights to the UK.

The committee also asked the CAA officials regarding media reports about expensive spare parts being stolen from aircraft hangars at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport.

The CAA officials told the committee that the reports were false and “an attempt to malign the authority and the country”.

All warehouses with spare parts are properly locked and the aircraft inside the said hangar belonged to a private aviation company, the CAA officials said.

Senator Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah, a member of the committee, asked the PIA CEO about the imposition of additional charges on seats after the ticket has been purchased.

The PIA CEO said no such additional charges are notified and assured the committee that he would conduct an inquiry if any passenger has been asked to pay these charges.

When asked why a 15 per cent reduction in international fares announced in July has not been implemented, the CEO said the matter had been taken up by the airline’s board and its decision would be the final one on the matter.

The committee also sought details about the airline’s policy of providing free tickets to the employees, specifically during 2019, 2020 and 2021.

The PIA officials informed the committee that taxes are collected from the employees who are allotted those free tickets.

They further said first priority is always given to passengers who have purchased the tickets. After the boarding is closed, the employees who wished to travel are issued boarding passes if seats are available.

The meeting was attended by senators Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah, Faisal Saleem, Saleem Mandviwala and Azam Khan Swati. Officials from the aviation ministry, PIA and CAA were also present.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2022

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