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RAWALPINDI: The national airline’s hopes of resuming flights to major European destinations suffered a setback on Saturday after the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it would carry out its own assessment before authorizing the resumption of flights from Pakistan.

In a letter to Pakistan International Airlines Managing Director Arshad Malik, EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said that although Pakistan was able to lift the safety concerns raised by the Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), it was only part of the process that would lead to the lifting of restrictions on Pakistani airlines.

The EASA letter states: “The closure of this significant safety issue was an important step towards a possible lifting of the suspension of your third country operator authorization”.

However, he notes that “EASA must audit the operator before lifting the suspension. Given that shortcomings in state oversight contributed to the suspension decision, [an] the audit should include an assessment to verify whether these deficiencies have been properly addressed and corrected.

Pakistani carriers had been barred from flying to EU states in July 2020 when the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) suspended the permission of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to fly to EU states. operate flights to EU Member States.

In a press conference on January 6, 2022, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had claimed that Pakistan was writing to EASA – as well as other international aviation bodies – to let it be known that safety issues raised by ICAO had been resolved. He had hoped that flights to major destinations in Europe could resume as early as February or March.

In his correspondence with the Head of the PIA, Mr. Ky noted that it was encouraging that “ICAO was able to eliminate the significant safety issues…raised against the licensing of Pakistani personnel as a result of program activities universal on-site safety oversight audit conducted in Pakistan from Nov. 29 to Dec. 10, 2021.”

However, he pointed out that since the safety issues indicated “a serious degradation in the certification and oversight capabilities of the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan (PCAA)”, EASA should obtain information on this when of the lifting of the suspension.

She recalled that following the suspension of the third country authorization granted to PIA, the European Commission had entered into formal consultations with PCAA and several meetings had taken place. “These discussions revealed the need to address the overall surveillance capability of the PCAA,” EASA said.

EASA also hinted that it would only conduct the audit if Pakistan could guarantee the safety of its personnel, and that it would be linked to the Covid-19 pandemic situation.

However, PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez Khan told Dawn that PIA has been in constant contact with EASA since its authorization was suspended following licensing issues.

According to him, EASA will now carry out a separate audit of the PCAA and the PIA before lifting the suspensions.

“From our side, we are fully prepared and have affirmed our availability to EASA to send their team as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said.

Posted in Dawn, January 23, 2022