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Monday, July 15, 2024

EU maintains ban on Pakistani airlines amid safety concerns

An on-site review conducted from November 27 to 30, 2023, revealed critical concerns regarding the PCAA’s oversight role.

The European Union has opted to maintain its restrictions on Pakistani airlines, including Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), following the latest evaluations by the EU Air Safety Committee. Despite efforts by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) to address previous deficiencies, the committee found insufficient grounds to amend the current list of banned air carriers.

Ongoing Safety Concerns

An on-site review conducted from November 27 to 30, 2023, revealed critical concerns regarding the PCAA’s oversight role. The review highlighted deviations from established safety procedures and significant understaffing within the Flight Standards Directorate. While the PCAA is staffed by technically skilled professionals, the committee noted persistent shortcomings in internal verifications and adherence to safety protocols.

Read More: PIA might resume flights to Paris next month; UK to follow in August

The EU Air Safety Committee’s decision reiterates the importance of continuous monitoring of Pakistan’s aviation safety developments. The committee has recommended regular technical meetings in Brussels and consistent progress reporting from the PCAA.

Corrective Measures and Continued Monitoring

In response to the findings, the PCAA submitted a corrective action plan on May 6, 2024, detailing measures to address the identified deficiencies. This plan was discussed during a hearing with the EU safety committee in May. Despite these efforts, the committee concluded that more work is needed to ensure compliance with international safety standards.

The EU emphasized the necessity of government support and leadership stability within the PCAA as critical to its effective functioning. The commission also noted the need for EU member states to prioritize ramp inspections of Pakistani air carriers under regulation EU 965/2012 to ensure ongoing compliance with safety standards.

Impact on Pakistani Aviation

The decision to uphold the ban is a significant setback for PIA, which has been unable to operate flights to Europe since 2020. This suspension followed the revocation of PIA’s authorization by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) due to a pilot license scandal and subsequent safety concerns.

Despite PIA CEO Muhammad Amir Hayat’s recent optimism about resuming flights to Europe, the EU’s decision indicates that substantial improvements are still required. Aviation experts lament the missed opportunity to revive PIA’s operations in European markets, viewing it as a setback for the government’s broader investment efforts in the aviation sector.

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The EU Air Safety Committee retains the possibility of inviting the PCAA to additional hearings at future meetings, contingent on the progress made in addressing the current safety concerns. The ongoing scrutiny and required improvements highlight the EU’s commitment to maintaining high safety standards for air carriers operating within its borders.