Minister of State for Finance and Revenue Ali Pervaiz Malik informed the National Assembly on Friday that flights of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to Europe were expected to be restored soon.

Responding to a calling attention notice regarding the ban on PIA flights by the UK and the European Union, he said, “A detailed action plan from Pakistan has been dispatched to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the verification process is currently underway.”

He added: “We hope that the verification process will be completed within two to three months and flights to Europe will be restored.”

The minister said the European Commission Air Safety Commission delisted Pakistan from its concern list on May 14, describing this as a “positive development”.

In 2020, after a PIA plane crash in Karachi killed nearly 100, followed by a fake pilot licence scandal, the EASA banned the airline from its most lucrative routes in Europe and Britain.

The ban continues, costing the airline annual revenue of nearly Rs40 billion. In March, Federal Minister of Aviation Khawaja Asif claimed that PIA flights to the UK would resume soon after clearance from EASA by mid-May.

The minister’s remarks were based on conversations with “relevant quarters”.

However, the EU has opted to continue with its restrictions on Pakistani airlines after recent evaluations raised ongoing safety concerns.

The decision, under­scored by the possibility of future reviews, follows an exhaustive asses­sment by the EU Air Safety Committee.

During its latest meetings, the committee determined that there were insufficient grounds to amend the current list of air carriers prohibited from operating within the EU. The decision is particularly pertinent to air carriers certified by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA).

An on-site review conduc­ted from November 27 to 30, 2023, critically examined the PCAA’s role in safety oversight and identified multiple areas of concern.

These incl­uded deviations from established safety procedures and significant understaffing in the Flight Stan­dards Direc­torate, des­pite the authority being staffed by technically skilled professionals.

In response, the PCAA presented a corrective action plan on May 6 detailing measures taken to add­ress the deficiencies noted. This plan was discussed during a hearing with the EU safety committee in May.

The EU Air Safety Committee concluded that “particular attention should be given to the continuous monitoring of the safety situation and developments in Pakistan, through the regular organisation of technical meetings in Brussels before each EU Air Safety Committee, and regular progress reporting from PCAA.”

It further retained the possibility of inviting the PCAA to an additional hearing at future EU Air Safety Committee meetings, as may be warranted.

The commission also highlighted the need for the government’s continued sup­port, as well as the importance of ensuring leadership stability within the authority as a cornerstone for a well-functioning PCAA.

“In accordance with the common criteria set out in the regulation, the commission considers that at this time there are no grounds for amending the list of air carriers, which are subjected to an operating ban within the union with respect to air carriers certified in Pakistan,” it said in a report.

It added that EU member states should continue verifying the effective compliance of air carriers certified in Pakistan with the relevant international safety standards through the prioritisation of ramp inspections of those air carriers.

“Where any relevant safety information reveals imminent safety risks resulting from non-compliance with the relevant international safety standard, further action by the commission can become necessary,in accordance with regulation,” it said.

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