The European Union has maintained its ban on the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) from operating flights to Europe, the European Commission said in a document seen by Arab News, citing “no grounds” to amend a list of countries barred from operating flights to the bloc.

PIA flights to Europe and the UK have been suspended since 2020 after the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) revoked the national flag carrier’s authorization to fly to the bloc following a pilot license scandal that rocked the country.

The issue, which followed a plane crash in May 2020 that killed nearly a hundred people, had resulted in the grounding of 262 of Pakistan’s 860 pilots, including 141 of PIA’s 434.
“The Commission considers that at this time there are no grounds for amending the list of air carriers, which are subject to an operating ban within the Union with respect to air carriers certified in Pakistan,” read the document released by the European Commission last week.

The document said the status of Pakistani air carriers will remain unchanged, in contrast with PIA CEO Muhammad Amir Hayat’s statement last month in which he expressed confidence that the PIA would resume flights to Europe, including two weekly flights to Paris, in June or July.
EASA and the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) did not respond to Arab News’ requests for comment.

The document, which pointed to a “noticeable lack of depth of scrutiny” observed by EU experts, did not specify when EASA would conduct its next assessment or if there would be any further on-ground evaluations in Pakistan.
The commission said that EU experts conducted an on-site assessment in Pakistan on November 27-30, 2023.

“It was found that PCAA has an established policy to adhere to international safety standards, and is staffed by technically skilled and professional persons,” the document stated. “Nevertheless, common shortcomings were observed throughout the organization, such as underscoring of non-conformities, and the lack of internal verifications.”

It said Pakistan’s Flight Standards Directorate was “severely understaffed” in terms of sufficiently qualified personnel to perform all certification and safety oversight tasks.
“This situation is aggravated by the assignment of tasks that do not necessarily fall within the Flight Standards remit,” it added.

On the basis of the on-site assessment, the commission said it invited the PCAA to a hearing before the EU Air Safety Committee on May 14.
“At the hearing, PCAA, on the basis of a Corrective Action Plan (‘CAP’) submitted on 6 May 2024, addressed each observation described in the EU visit report, noting the root cause analysis underpinning all corrective measures taken or planned in the short, medium and long term,” it read.

The PCAA indicated the efforts undertaken to rectify the quality management shortcomings identified during the visit, according to the document.
“The Commission also highlighted the need for the government’s continued support, as well as the importance of ensuring leadership stability within the authority as a cornerstone for a well-functioning PCAA,” it stated, adding that EU member states should continue to verify effective compliance of air carriers certified in Pakistan with relevant international safety standards by prioritizing ramp inspections of those carriers.

Pakistan is set to privatize the national airline, which has been facing a financial crisis for the last several years, by June and July as part of the requirements set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
On Monday, Privatization Minister Abdul Aleem Khan said Pakistan had selected six companies qualified to bid to buy the PIA. The companies included Air Blue, Arif Habib Corporation, Blue World City, Fly Jinnah, Pak Ethanol (Pvt) Consortiums, and YB Holdings Consortiums.

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