Dhaka: The flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will not be allowed to fly into most of Europe for the next six months, announced European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on June 30.
The six-month long ban by EU follows the shocking revelations that nearly a third of Pakistani pilots had cheated on their pilot exams.
In a letter banning Pakistan’s national airline, the EASA cited concerns about “the validity of the Pakistani pilot licenses and that Pakistan, as the State of operator, is currently not capable to certify and oversee its operators and aircraft in accordance with applicable international standards”.
Last week, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Aviation Minister of Pakistan, announced that 260 pilots, out of 860, had improperly gotten their licenses.
The scandal came to light during investigations into the May 22 Airbus A320 plane crash of PIA at Pakistan’s southern port of Karachi that killed 97 people
Further inquiries eventually led investigators to find that the Civil Aviation Authority had given out licenses to pilots who had cheated on their exams.
The government has since fired five officials of the regulatory agency, and PIA subsequently grounded 150 of its pilots for cheating.
PIA, which had not been flying to Europe due to the coronavirus pandemic, had been hoping to resume flights to Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Barcelona and Milan within the next two months.
“We have really hit rock bottom, I am so sad to say,” said Abdullah Hafeez, spokesman for PIA said. "The saddest part for PIA is that we had alerted the regulatory agency and the government," Hafeez said, regarding the cheating scandal.
"Dubious Pilot Licenses do not pertain to PIA alone. Let it be on record, these licenses were issued by the competent authority and are valid as per their records. It's the process and discrepancies through which they were obtained, triggered the inquiry by GoP and action," PIA tweeted on June 25.