The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has informed the national flag carrier that the ban on its flights to Europe had been extended by three months and that it would not be reviewed until a safety audit of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). This emerged in the backdrop of Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan statement where he claimed that “the ban imposed on Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate flights in Europe would be lifted soon”. Nobody in PIA or Aviation division has any idea what this statement is based on.
What we assume is that the aviation minister in his talk with the reporters in Taxila was referring to EASA’s letter to PIA where the agency showed satisfaction with most of the developments about Safety Management System. concerns of EASA regarding the process of issuing licences to commercial pilots had been addressed and soon the ban imposed on PIA flights in European countries would be lifted.
But the minister was sharing half-truth rather something that was nowhere the reality. PIA received a disappointing reply to their request for provisional permission to fly to Europe. PIA asked EASA to give it provisional permission to operate flights to and from Europe. PIA CEO Air Marshal Arshad Malik wrote to EASA after mentioning the improvements made that “it is prudent to submit that both EU and EASA may kindly review our case again as safety at PIACL has visibly improved, which has been duly verified in their independent assessments in recent renewal IOSA Audit by IATA and our consultant Boeing”.
He goes on to request “to kindly grant us provisional/conditional Part-TCO Authorization so that our operations can be resumed in the best interest of our passengers, who would like to travel through PIA on direct routes to Pakistan on this New Year eve and onwards”. He further added that he would like to present PIA’s case “for a review even independent of PCAA”.
But EASA was not convinced to the idea and replied “regarding the lack of confidence in certification and oversight activities performed by the Pakistani CAA, which was the second aspect that led to the suspension of Third Country Operator Authorisation, the investigation performed by the European Commission and by the ICAO have not yet been concluded.
“Consequently, as all preconditions to lift the suspension are not met and, as an audit will be necessary, the agency decided not to revoke your Third Country Operator Authorisation but to extend the suspension period by additional three months….”
This communication also proves the fact that the TCO withdrawal for PIA could have been averted if the Minister had not shown the “recklessness” by delivering that catastrophic speech on the floor of the parliament. And it also proves that the ban is not only on PIA but on any Pakistani airline that has any plans to fly to Europe.
EASA told PIA it was investigating the issue of ‘fake’ pilots’ licences and it would review the ban after an audit but added that its officials could not visit Pakistan because of the coronavirus pandemic.