US revokes permission for PIA to operate special direct flights
The US has revoked the permission granted to the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate a number of special direct flights to America, a spokesperson for the flag carrier said here, as the fallout from the revelation of Pakistani pilots’ alleged dubious licences continues.
The authorisation was revoked “due to recent events identified by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority that are of serious concern to aviation safety, specifically matters pertaining to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”, Dawn news quoted an email sent to PIA officials by a US-based law firm, as saying on Thursday.
PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan confirmed that the airline had been notified of the permission being withdrawn via email.
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 until now operated six of the flights to different US cities.
It was the first time that Pakistan’s national flag carrier operated direct flights to the US.
“It is a setback for us,” PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez told Dawn news.
“However we are keeping very close coordination with US Department of Transportation and we sincerely hope that with the reformative process already underway, they will review their decision to revoke the permissions.”
Following disclosure by Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan in Parliament that 150 PIA pilots had ‘dubious’ licences, the European Union and UK aviation authorities had barred the airline from flying to their airports for at least six months.
The aviation regulators of several other countries, meanwhile, have sought verification of credentials of Pakistani pilots and engineers working there.
The development comes as the federal government in recent days has tried to assuage concerns about Pakistani pilots, stating that an inquiry into the issuance of ‘illegal’ licences to 236 pilots between 2012 and 2018 was in progress.