Banned in fake pilot scandal, Pakistan hopes to resume PIA flights to UK in next 3 months

Pakistan International Airlines - PIA

Following the suspension of the services due to a fake pilot scandal, Pakistan aviation minister Khawaja Saad Rafique indicated that Pakistan International Airlines is expected to restart flights to Britain within the next three months, The Express Tribune reported.

Rafique told parliament on Friday that new legislation has removed the final hurdle for the national carrier to fly to the United Kingdom.

“The PIA flights will resume at least to the UK in three months, and, later, flights to Europe and America will resume,”  he said.

PIA flights to Europe and the UK were suspended after the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) revoked the national carrier’s authorisation to fly to the bloc in 2020 following a fake pilot licence scandal in Pakistan, The Express Tribune reported.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the UN Aviation body, advised Pakistan in September 2020 to undertake immediate corrective action and suspend the issue of any new pilot licenses after false licenses came to light following the crash of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane in May that year, in which 97 people were killed.

In June last year, Pakistan grounded 262 airline pilots suspected of dodging their exams following checks of their qualifications.

The pilot licence scandal has tainted Pakistan’s aviation industry and hurt flag carrier PIA, which was barred from flying to Europe and the United States.

PIA spokesman Abdullah H. Khan said the national carrier was looking forward to resuming the UK route.

“The UK and Europe contribute to 37 per cent of our total revenue,” he said.

Rafique said the national airline had incurred losses as a result of a fake licence issue. He said it will need to be restructured and required billions of dollars in investment to avoid closure.

He also said the government plans to outsource the country’s airport operations, starting with Islamabad Airport, followed by operations at Karachi and Lahore airports.

On the other hand, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the country’s main airline, has reached a point where it needs money from the national fund to operate for even one day. The government is thinking of bringing in specialists to draw a time-bound restructuring plan through shadow management in light of the total accumulated losses, which have exceeded PKR 600 billion, according to The News International.

“The financial position of the PIA is so bleak that it could not pay USD 50 million navigation charges to Saudi Arabia, so they at one point had barred the national flag carrier to continue its operation after June 30, 2023,” The News International quoted a top official in background discussions, and added that the PIA would be closed down on the day when the government stopped injecting money into the loss-making entity.

The official wondered how long a PIA that is operating at a loss would continue to operate and added that first and foremost, leaks needed to be sealed, a reorganisation plan needed to be created with deadlines, and the major functions needed to be gradually privatised.

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