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Restrictions force PIA to suspend Frankfurt flight

February 28, 2007

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ISLAMABAD, Feb 27: Germany on Tuesday asked Pakistan International Airlines to stop flying most of its aircraft to German Airports, almost a week before the European Union takes a final decision about a ban being contemplated by the EU on the airline.

German authorities have asked PIA management to operate only Boeing 777 aircraft in and out of Germany, the airline’s spokesman confirmed on Tuesday.

PIA, which operates two flights to Frankfurt from Islamabad and one each from Peshawar and Lahore using A-310 carriers, appears to have been caught unprepared.

PK 761, which was to fly from Islamabad to Frankfurt on Tuesday was instead flown to Istanbul after the German decision and passengers were transferred to another airline for carrying them onwards to Frankfurt.

The EU plans to ban all but seven aircraft in PIA fleet because of safety concern, with the recently acquired Boeing 777s escaping the restrictions.

PIA had been on EU watch-list since September 2006, which had asked the airline to undertake a remedial plan for addressing the systemic safety deficiencies within the given deadline.

An EU delegation led by Federico Grandini, European Commission’s Air Safety Administrator, had visited Pakistan earlier this month to assess the remedial measures and had spoken to both Civil Aviation Authority and PIA on the issue. The meeting was followed by CAA and PIA officials visit to Brussels, but failed to convince the EU officials.

The basic objections of EU pertain to absence of a proper quality control system in the airline and its failure to rectify the faults that had been identified earlier.

Mr Grandini had told Dawn from Brussels that the findings had been sent to the commission which will take a formal decision only after consultation of the European Parliament in about 10 days.

However, the German authorities imposed the restrictions much earlier than a final decision by the EU. No explanations have been given by German authorities.