At the time of writing this update, there is no formal notification of the ban posted by either the Department of Transportation or the FAA or the PIA website. According to Yahoo News, the information is contained in a revocation of special authorization dated July 1 provided by the department to Reuters.
As per Pakistani and Arab Gulf media sources, Pakistan was reportedly advised of the United States travel restriction by email. Also affected are the special flight licenses previously issued to PIA by the United States.
PIA’s spokesperson confirmed the ban to Pakistani media and reportedly said that the national carrier had received an email in this regard. “We will address America’s concerns,” the spokesperson said, adding that hopefully, the matter of pilots’ licences will be resolved through ongoing corrective measures within the airline.
This reported move by the US comes a few days after the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) suspended the national carrier’s permit for six months, UK barred PIA flights from three of its airports and Vietnam grounded all Pakistani pilots working in the country.
The authorization was revoked “due to recent events identified by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority that are of serious concern to aviation safety, specifically matters pertaining to the proper certification of certain Pakistani pilots”, according to an email sent to PIA officials by a law firm, as seen and reported by Dawn.com.
The US Department of Transportation had in April granted PIA permission to operate 12 direct flights to the US to repatriate people stranded by the coronavirus pandemic. The airline had already operated six of the flights to different US cities.
As per previous reports coming out of Europe and Pakistani media, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has written a letter, dated July 7, 2020, to its 32 member countries regarding “alleged irregularities on pilot licences issued by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority”.
Pakistan’s aviation minister had earlier told the Pakistani parliament that a large number of commercial pilots hold fake licences or cheated in exams after the initial PIA plane crash report was released.
PIA’s Twitter account had come out with a series of tweets on this development on June 25 and 30, 2020.
PIA had a glorious past, and a time when it received an extraordinary endorsement from Jacqueline Kennedy, who, after a flight in 1962, hugged the pilot and repeated the tagline, ‘Great people to fly with’.
According to media sources, and reported by VOA, “the suspect licenses” were issued between 2010 and 2018 when the country’s two main political forces – the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N – were in power respectively.
While the opposition politicians are criticizing the current PTI government how this issue is being handled, certain analysts are praising the government to have taken such a bold step and exposed the level of corruption and nepotism that has plagued the national carrier.
International bodies have an important role to play, as it is in the best interest of not only the people of Pakistan and PIA but also international safety, that PIA is returned to operating the way international airlines are expected, safely.
Meanwhile, UAE is the first country, which has given PIA permission to operate two-way regular passenger flights as of July 9, 2020, and tweeted by the airline on July 8.
Cover Photo: PIA Aircraft at Toronto Pearson International Airport