Business & Economy

US bans Pakistan’s PIA flights over pilots’ fake license scandal

Islamabad, Jul 10 (efe-epa).- The Department of Transportation of the United States has banned flights from state-owned Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) from operating on its territory following a scandal regarding fake pilot licenses.

PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez told EFE on Friday that the US had revoked the airline’s permission to fly on its soil from Jul.2 onwards, but the decision was not made public until now.

“They said we have concerns about the pilots,” said Hafeez.

The spokesman said that PIA had permission to make 12 flights to the US to repatriate Pakistani citizens, the last of which was made on Jun.27.

Its operations on American soil had been suspended in 2017 because of lack of viability due to high cost.

PIA had planned to resume scheduled flights to the US in April, but was stalled by the novel coronavirus crisis that prompted airspace to close in many countries.

Besides the US government, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) also suspended PIA’s authorization to operate in Europe earlier this month.

The United Kingdom too banned PIA flights, while Vietnam and Malaysia temporarily grounded Pakistani pilots working there.

The United Arab Emirates asked the government to verify the licenses of Pakistani pilots and engineers working in its aviation sector, and Abu Dhabi is auditing the qualifications of Pakistan’s aviation personnel on its soil.

Pakistan has grounded 262 pilots – one third of its total – for allegedly obtaining fraudulent licenses, following a denouncement by Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan beore the National Assembly, or Lower House of parliament, on Jun.24.

Sarwar’s statements were made during the presentation of a preliminary report on a May PIA plane crash in Karachi in which 97 passengers and a girl on the ground died. The report pointed to the pilots as being partly responsible for the accident.

So far, the Pakistani authorities have decided to fire 28 pilots and have suspended five Civil Aviation Authority officials for their role in helping people cheat in the exams for obtaining a pilot license.

A suspended pilot revealed to EFE that people paid bribes ranging from 300,000 rupees (around $1,800) to 1.5 million rupees (around $8,900), depending on the assistance received from the officials. EFE-EPA

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