CAA fails to resume PIA operation to Europe, US


Industry faces losses of $2b per annum


Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) has failed to resume national airline’s operation to Europe and America

The Pakistan Aviation industry is facing a loss of at least US$:2 billion per annum due to the ban on national carriers imposed by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

It meris mentioning here that PIA flights to Europe were suspended by EASA following the crash of Pk-8303 at Karachi Airport on 20 May 2020 when the Minister of Aviation needlessly stood up in NA and gave a statement that over 260 pilots out of 840 holding Pilot Licenses issued by CAA Pakistan were fraudulent. This self-accepted lack of credibility by CAA Pakistan to perform their regulatory functions forced European Aviation Safety Assessment (EASA) to enforce a ban on all airlines regulated by CAA Pakistan to operate into or land at any European airport.

It is to recall that EASA had issued a Third-Party Operator Authorization to PIA on 16 May 2016 which required the airline to conform to Safety Regulations prevailing in Europe. EASA had expressed concerns about Safety to PIA and in this regard during the tenure of former PIA Chairman/MD Arshsd Malik held two meetings with them on June 13, 2019 and again on September 3, 2019 where PIA itself had suggested and accepted to perform 6 Corrective Action Plan (CAP). It is a failure on the part of CAA and PIA to fulfill all 6 CAP which required verification by EASA. The situation now is that while PIA claims to have completed their part of CAP, but CAA Pakistan due to unknown reasons is hesitant to accept an ON-SPOT verification of their capability to perform their regulatory functions by a team of EASA inspectors.

It is this delay which stops PIA to resume its flights to Europe and also to America. The American FAA restricted PIA flights to operate into their airspace after EASA ban and Aviation Minister Sarwar Khan’s statement in National Assembly which played the role of a suicide attack on Pakistan Aviation Industry.

Insider sources and Aviation Industry experts are of the view that CAA Pakistan does not have independent qualified and experienced inspectors in Commercial Aviation with experience on the type of aircraft being operated by various airlines who are regulated by them. It is also pertinent to mention here that pilots, engineers, technicians etc of these airlines are also issued licenses by PCAA.

This lack of capacity by CAA Pakistan is depriving the local Pakistani registered airlines to operate on all international routes which they ie PIA was operating into.

This vacuum has been filled by foreign airlines based in the Gulf, Turkey, UK etc who are literally making Hay While the Sun shines. This is not just impacting passenger traffic but also exports of goods like perishable fruits/vegetables etc which were transported by air. These cargo airline operators have raised their charges manifold because of their monopoly and basic rules of supply and demand. PIA traffic rights and slots at Heathrow, Manchester, JFK, New York, Paris etc which have been acquired over decades are likely to be lost because of failure to utilise them and regulations of countries involved. These grandfather rights over slots although on piece paper have no value, but their book value is in millions of US Dollars. One key time slot at Heathrow has a value of roughly £9Million. PIA must start its operations into Heathrow by November 2022, otherwise it is likely to lose these slots.

An airline operating on international routes cannot survive if it loses its credibility. Having already tarnished the credibility of PIA it was sheer criminal negligence to announce starting flight operations from Pakistan to Australia, without a formal agreement on traffic rights between these two sovereign states. Traffic Rights can only be negotiated and signed between two states who have sovereignty over their land and airspace. Yet the former Arshad Malik even made a formal announcement of a date for start of operation to Australia without such an agreement. While Pakistani airlines are suffering, the revenues earned by foreign based airlines through sale of tickets and cargo is being remitted from Pakistan to their foreign bank accounts, where these airlines are based to the tune of over US$2Billion per annum.

When this scribe contacted spokesman for CAA Saif Ullah said, “We are waiting for European commission and EASA inspectors who were supposed to visit Pakistan in May or June last months”. He said that they have expressed their inability to visit immediately and now they are expected any time this year to visit another question he said that CAA inspectors are fully capable to perform their professional duties on any front.


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