• Tom Jordan

PIA banned from operating flights to the United States

The USA's Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced that it has banned Pakistani flag carrier, PIA (Pakistan International Airlines), from operating any flights to airports in mainland US or overseas territories. This follows the July 1st ban of the airline from EU airspace in the aftermath of the crash of PIA Flight 8303.

Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777-300ER at London-Heathrow. Photo by Karam Sodhi | AeroNewsX

This announcement from the US Department of Transportation today comes in the light of the preliminary investigation into the May 22nd crash of Pakistan International Airlines Flight 8303, of which the cause was found to be pilot error. The investigation also dug up disturbing evidence that of the 850 Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) holders in Pakistan, 262 were holding fake licenses. The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) has begun to investigate the fake license claims and has since dismissed 28 pilots across the country but has not acted quickly enough to escape being put on the EU blacklist.

In light of this, the USA Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommended to the Department of Transportation on the 30th June that PIA be banned from operating to US airports, and all PIA operations to the USA should be terminated as a result. The DOT then approved this recommendation and PIA was banned from flying to any airports on US soil, with its license to operate to the USA being quickly revoked. Pakistan International Airlines spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan recently told Bloomberg that the ban is "a huge setback for Pakistan International Airlines who had worked very hard to get direct flight permission to the USA."

Although PIA has not operated any regular scheduled flights to the USA since October 2017 when it ended regular flights to New York, the airline has operated several repatriation flights from both New York-Newark and Chicago-O'Hare to various airports within Pakistan this year due to the coronavirus crisis. The flight ban now bars PIA from operating any further flights to US soil and brings the growing list of countries the airline has been barred from operating to 28 in total. This list may also grow further in light of a recent warning from Omani Public Authority for Civil Aviation that Pakistan International Airlines may be banned from overflying its airspace if safety issues are not addressed and also asked Islamabad for proof the airline was adhering by international safety standards.

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