The world is getting smaller by the day for Pakistan International Airlines.
United States bans PIA
Bloomberg reports that on July 1, 2020, the US Department of Transportation banned Pakistan International Airlines from operating any flights to the United States. This follows a similar suspension from the European Union, which is also valid for six months.
Ultimately this suspension is unlikely to be of much consequence to the airline. PIA didn’t fly to the US even before the current coronavirus pandemic.
The airline had flown to the US for over 50 years, and at one point flew to Chicago, Houston, and New York. The airline finally suspended US flights as of October 2017.
Towards the end, the airline wasn’t allowed to operate nonstop flights from Pakistan to the US, but rather had to operate via Manchester, where passengers had to go through security screening (I once reviewed PIA business class on the Manchester to New York flight). The airline was allegedly losing $12 million per year operating just two weekly flights to New York.
For the past year the airline has been working on restarting service to the US, which has involved all kinds of security audits. Apparently the airline had passed most of these tests, and as of late 2019 the plan was for nonstop US flights to launch as of May 2020.
I think it’s safe to say that those flights wouldn’t have been launched now regardless of this ban, given the lack of demand. However, PIA has now suffered a major setback for whenever the airline decides to try to resume US flights.
PIA is now banned from flying to the US
Why is PIA banned from the United States?
This development is coming after Pakistan’s Minister for Aviation revealed that 262 of 860 pilots in Pakistan have “fake” licenses.
Specific to Pakistan International Airlines, which is Pakistan’s largest airline, it was found that around 150 pilots were believed to hold fake credentials. Based on what we know, many people had other people take tests for them, because they weren’t otherwise qualified to fly.
The airline had acknowledged this information, and said it was working on correcting the problem:
“PIA acknowledges the AAIB report and have already taken measures learning from it. An independent Flight Data Monitoring setup established to monitor & analyze all flights. All pilots with dubious licenses will be grounded. Safety is more imp. than any commercial interest”
All of this came to light after a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A320 crashed last month, killing nearly 100 people. The government had released preliminary findings of the crash, blaming it on human error. The investigation also revealed how many pilots in the country allegedly held fake credentials.
PIA business class catering
PIA has long been a mess of an airline, though little has been done to fix things. With the recent revelation by Pakistan’s Minister for Aviation, it’s hard to ignore the serious safety risks posed by PIA planes.
The European Union has banned PIA, and now the US has as well. Hopefully Canada is next up to ban PIA, since that’s actually a major market for the airline, unlike the US.
What do you make of PIA being banned from the US?