ISLAMABAD: The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended authorization of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to fly to the block for six months, the airline said on Tuesday, in a major blow to the country’s flag carrier.
Separately, the safety agency said it took action because of concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards at all times.
The suspension follows runway 262 of Pakistan’s 860 state pilots – including 141 of 434 PIAs – whose licenses are called by the aviation minister “dubious.”
“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA authorization to operate in EU member states for an effective six-month period of July 1, 2020 with the right to appeal,” the PIA said in a statement. He added that he would suspend all flights to Europe.
Confirming the move in a statement sent by e-mail, EASA was referring to a recent investigation by Pakistan that said it indicated “most” of pilot licenses were invalid.
The Pakistani pilot landed after an initial report on a PIA accident in Karachi that killed 97 people last month.
The PIA said it was in contact with EASA to take corrective action and appeal the decision, adding that it expected the suspension to be revoked “as early as possible” after action by the government and the airline.
EASA also suspended the authorization of another Pakistani airline, Vision Air International.
Vision Air International does not immediately respond to requests for comment via email.
Following the EASA decision, the British Civil Aviation Authority said it also withdrew PIA permits to operate from three airports, as required by law.
“PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester airports were suspended immediately,” a spokesman for the British authority told Reuters.
All three are the main flight destinations for airlines.
Meanwhile, Pakistani pilots and their union, the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (PALPA), said there were differences in the list of government pilots with licenses that were considered dubious and demanded a court investigation.
PIA and private airline Air Blue also questioned the list with PIA saying 36 of its pilots were said to have retired or left the airline, while Air Blue said it no longer employs seven of the nine pilots on the list.
“It contains the names of highly educated and quality pilots who have passed all the tests,” PALPA president Chaudhry Salman told Reuters. “We want a fair and impartial resolution to this issue.”
An official at the Pakistani aviation ministry, Abdul Sattar Khokhar, said they did not have full details about the differences. “This problem is being resolved through consultation with airlines and civil aviation authorities.”