Pakistan International Airlines will not be allowed to fly to the EU for six months after several of its pilots' licenses were found to be invalid, EASA said. Islamabad said it would try to reform the troubled airline.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Tuesday suspended flying authorization for six months to Pakistani airline Vision Air International and the country's flagship, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). The suspension, effective July 1, comes after Pakistan's aviation minister said last week that a formal review had found that 262 of the country's 860 active pilots were holding fake licenses or had cheated in exams.
More than half of those pilots belonged to PIA, prompting the airline to immediately ground 141 of its 434 pilots. EASA said its decision to bar PIA for six months was linked to "large share" of pilot licenses found to be invalid.
The agency also said it took the action due to concerns about the country's ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards at all times.
Over the past several months, PIA has flown only limited international flights due to the coronavirus pandemic. But when it resumed last month, one of its flights suffered a devastating crash that killed 98 people. The accident was attributed to human error, as the pilots were distracted, chatting about the coronavirus while they first attempted to land the Airbus A320 without putting its wheels down.
Plans to appeal
PIA has promised to take corrective measures and appeal the decision, saying that it expected the suspension to be lifted at the "earliest possible," as the airline will seek help from the government.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told parliament that his government would reform PIA and other government institutions. "I want to tell my nation: We have no other option, reforms are inevitable," Khan said Tuesday.
Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed, a senior figure in the opposition Pakistan People's Party, said PIA's troubles had "put the country's reputation at stake."
"The decision of the European Union is the result of successive follies of incompetent rulers," Ahmed said in a statement.
Up until the 1970s, PIA was considered one of the region's top airline, but its reputation has plummeted amid chronic mismanagement, frequent cancelations and financial struggles.