The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has extended the ban on Pakistan International Airline’s (PIA) flight operations to European countries for an unidentified period.
The EASA had initially imposed a six-month ban ending on 31 December 2020, which was later increased by another three months until 31 March 2021.
The development came the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had requested the EASA to lift the ban.
In response to the letter, the EASA maintained that the CAA had not fulfilled all the requirements to get the restrictions lifted. It also issued a final warning to the CAA to have its safety audit conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in the summer of 2021. The CAA has not undergone the audit which has been an essential requirement since 2009.
The EASA contended that it should have revoked the Third Country Operator Authorization (TCOA) – a safety authorization issued by the European flight safety agency – after a technical assessment of non-European aircraft operators, but it has not been done due to the exceptional circumstances caused by the pandemic and the consequent travel restrictions.
The letter read:
However, in view of the ICAO audit of Pakistan planned in summer 2021, the ongoing technical consultations with the CAA, and due to the exceptional circumstances arising from the current COVID-19 crisis and the consequent travel restrictions, EASA opts not to revoke your TCOA but to further extend the suspension period until all necessary information is available to decide on the way forward.
PIA had also requested permission to operate flights with only flight crew and engineers who do not hold Pakistani licenses, to which the agency responded, “The offer does not fully mitigate all concerns regarding the oversight capabilities of the CAA”.