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PIA to restart Europe flights in first quarter of 2022

PIA to restart Europe flights in first quarter of 2022

PIA to restart Europe flights in first quarter of 2022

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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will be flying to Europe in the first quarter of 2022, the PIA chief executive officer said, after an International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) validation committee cleared a safety audit report on the Pakistani flag carrier this month Arab News reported.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had suspended the authorisation of PIA to operate in EU member countries in July 2020 over licensing and flight safety concerns.

The licensing scandal tainted Pakistan’s aviation industry and the country grounded 262 airline pilots suspected of dodging their exams following checks of their qualifications.

An ICAO audit team visited Pakistan to undertake a safety audit of the aviation authority and completed the process on December 10. However, its final report has yet to be released, after which the Significant Safety Concerns (SSC) would be gradually eased out.

“You’ll be glad to know that very recently the ICAO Audit has also been conducted. Although formal information has not been shared with us, we are very, very positive,” PIA CEO Arshad Malik said.

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“I think by next year’s first quarter, we should be able to fly out our wings to Europe, and the ban should be lifted.”

He said that he sorted out in-house affairs of the airlines and brought the safety and quality team under his control. “I got an Air Vice Marshall to look after the safety aspect. We presented ourselves to Pakistan Civil Aviation, and thereafter, the international auditors came.”

Malik said unfortunately, there had been political intervention in the organisation for about two decades and there were people who were getting stronger rather than the organisation.

“The people started to merge together in associations and in unions, and they were trying to manipulate and they were trying to control the organisation,” he said.

“Over a period of time because of these interventions, we had lost merit-oriented decisions. We were also not taking commercial-based decisions. We were being dictated upon. Once all these things were going on, naturally, your performance indicators started to go down.”

Despite these challenges, the PIA CEO said, they managed to organise and groom themselves into commercial aviation. “God was very kind, through the assistance of my team, we were able to produce good results. And this was probably after very long, maybe 10 or 12 years that we came into operating profit.”

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He described the issue of fake pilot licences as the “worst challenge” as the airline’s European routes had been blocked and its interline and codeshare agreements were at stake.

“So what I did, I told myself we have to manage it. We have to come out of this crisis and face it with reality. I grounded all those pilots who were being suspected. I formed a central cell under my direct supervision, and we challenged those names and those data,” Malik said.

“We were able to prove that it is not all PIA pilots or the majority of the PIA pilots who had the suspicious licence. It was only a handful of people.”

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