Ban on PIA flights
When national institutions are either used as political base for enhancing vote bank or their much needed modernisation is deliberately ignored with the sole intent to be privatized at throw away price, then unpleasant events take place that damage the international image of the country. The UK and the European Union have temporarily suspended the flight operation of Pakistan International Air Line to and from their airports after surfacing of controversy of dubious licenses cancellation pilots and formal statement of federal Minister for Civil Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan in this regard. The UK Civil Aviation Agency imposed ban on flights of National Carrier and the same drastic decision was handed down by EU Air Safety Agency for Europe and Scandinavian states. An appeal against this decision can be filed within two months. It merits mention that in 2017 PIA flights had not been allowed to fly in the skies of United States, the UK and EU because of rag-tag aircrafts of its fleet. Hence, the matter of fake licenses cancellation alone may have not prompted the decision taken by the UK and EU Civil Aviation authorities for suspending PIA flights’ operation.
The damaging decision came after the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan cancelled the flying licenses f 262 pilots of PIA, Air Blue and Serene Air. Former Prime Minister Shaid Khaqan Abbassi, who had remained PIA Chairman for two and half years and owns major stakes in Air Blue, had expressed displeasure over the involvement of the federal government to sort out this sordid affair and insisted in a current affairs programme of a private TV Channels that written tests for the issuance of flying licenses has always been tough and transparent, after which pilots get on the job training. The unwarranted accusative debate initiated by the opposition against the government on this issue, which is unfortunately still on, may have contributed to the move taken by the UK and EU.
The suspension of flights’ operation of the national carrier will exacerbate the woes of Pakistanis stranded in the United States and European countries whose visa period will be expiring and they are anxious to take return air travel by PIA. Ironically, the decision has also come at a time when PIA special flights were being operated to bring back home stranded Pakistanis from the United States, European countries, Saudi Arabia and few countries of South East Asia. If other countries follow the suit, then the plight of stranded Pakistanis will be further compounded. Foreign airlines flights come to Gulf countries and it is not feasible for Pakistan’s nationals to travel on the airlines of European countries and UAE airlines. Ethihad Airways, Fly Dubai and Emirates airline have also suspended flights from the airports of Pakistan.
The six months suspension of PIA flights operation to Europe, the UK and the US will impact the revitalization plan of the National Carrier. The present management had taken appropriate measures including the rightsizing of this state entity to lay off political appointees, short term and long term programme of inducting new aircraft to reduce fuel and maintenance cost and reclaiming few lost international routes, which have helped reduce to some extent the losses of the airline. Now the losses will be again on the rise and the process of induction of latest technology airplanes in the fleet of national carrier will get a hit. It may be recalled that Prime Minister Imran Khan had chaired a meeting to review the pace of implementation of reforms, which are inevitable for protecting the national airline from recurring losses, plane crash incidents due to technical faults and making it a profitable organisation by way of modernisation. Let us hope that an appeal shall be filed in time with Civil Aviation Agency of the UK and EU Air Safety Agency and the case shall be contested in a professional manner to reverse the decision od suspending PIA flights’ operation.