Dismay at PIA as EU continues its ban on Pakistani carriers flying to Europe  

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The European Union Commission has decided to continue restrictions imposed on Pakistan-based airlines, including national carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) from being permitted to fly to airports within Europe.  

The decision follows a detailed and lengthy safety audit that was carried out by the EU Air Safety Committee in November 2023 into the state of that country’s aviation sector. 

Following its latest review, the Committee determined that there were insufficient grounds to amend the current list of air carriers prohibited from operating within the EU. The decision had been keenly awaited by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA), who had been expecting PIA to be cleared to resume flights to EU airports following the audit.  

“In accordance with the common criteria set out in the regulation, the Commission considers that at this time there are no grounds for amending the list of air carriers, which are subjected to an operating ban within the union with respect to air carriers certified in Pakistan,” the Committee’s report concluded. 

During the November 2023 review process, which was carried out in Pakistan, it is understood the inspectors critically examined the PCAA’s role in safety oversight and identified multiple areas of concern. These included deviations from established safety procedures and significant understaffing in the Flight Standards Directorate, despite the authority being staffed by technically skilled professionals. 

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In the Committee’s evaluation report, it stated that “particular attention should be given to the continuous monitoring of the safety situation and developments in Pakistan, through the regular organization of technical meetings in Brussels before each EU Air Safety Committee, and regular progress reporting from PCAA”. 

The Committee also highlighted the need for the Pakistani government’s continued support in the process, as well as the importance of ensuring leadership stability within the PCAA as a cornerstone for a well-functioning organization.  

In response to the Committee’s’ findings, the PCAA has presented a corrective action plan that details measures it is taking to address the deficiencies noted. This plan has already been discussed during a hearing with the EU Safety Committee in May 2024. 

While effectively shutting the door to PIA’s European return, for now, the Committee has left the matter open for further review going forward. The report expressly retained the possibility of inviting the PCAA to an additional hearing at future EU Air Safety Committee meetings, as may be warranted. 

Although the PCAA remains stoic about the possibility of other opportunities to overturn the ban in the future, executives at PIA are said to be “hugely disappointed” with the decision and are lamenting how the opportunity of a return to lucrative flights to destinations such as London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam has alluded it once again.  

Abdul N Quraishi – Abs / Shutterstock

The airline is said to have been striving to improve standards ahead of the most recent audit, so this announcement will come as a blow to the carrier. Allowing European flights is seen as vital to breathe new life back into the flag carrier, which has been struggling since the EU flight ban was imposed in 2020. Such a move would also boost the country’s economy, as more travelers would potentially visit the country were PIA operating to Europe.  

The ban was ordered by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which cited serious safety concerns following the fatal crash of PIA flight PK8303, operated by an Airbus A320 in Karachi on May 22, 2020.  

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority quickly followed suit with a similar ban, while the US Federal Aviation Administration also downgraded Pakistan’s aviation safety status following the EASA concerns.   

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