United States Bans Pakistan International Airlines

Filed Under: Other Airlines

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

Bottom line

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?

  1. Ben, thanks for the mention of your PIA Business Class trip. I still remember your comment of wanting to lick the plate of your Pakistani dessert. It’s called Kheer . (You can find a dry packaged version in any Asian store which you cook in milk, as you both now cook at home).

  2. As a Pakistani, this is so embarrassing. At the same time, I feel that this is the only way to rid the organisation of people who were given jobs in PIA as appreciation for their political work and affiliations. When the news of fake degree and license holders first came up, the Senate Committee on Aviation asked the government not to fire those who had fabricated their credentials! No wonder PIA pilots and staff are frequently involved in scandals ranging from drug smuggling and ‘slipping’ away in places like Canada, USA etc.

    Even now, instead of introspecting and coming together to fix the issue, the opposition parties are playing politics by going after the job of the current aviation minister. Their claim is that the minister’s remarks have brought shame and embarrassment to the nation. I wonder what happens to these senses when their actions endanger the lives of innocent people. Then again, as long as these kleptocrats have access to private planes and business class travel on Middle Eastern carriers, why should they care?

    I think the government should make it mandatory for all parliamentarians and bureaucrats to only use PIA for domestic and foreign air travel. Maybe then, we might see some change.

  3. I have been traveling with PIA for the last 30+ yrs from Toronto to Karachi. Yes, they have some shortcomings, but to ban all international flights is extreme.

  4. This is stupid and reactionary. The FAA and USDOT need to examine the situation going on at general aviation ramps across the country. Thousands of pilots operating
    – without maintaining currency
    – expired licenses or medicals
    – lied about health conditions to get medicals
    – aircraft that have gone years without the annual inspection

  5. Failed state backed by Americans during Cold War. Incubated Taleban, severely corrupt, known terrorist formenter from 1989 onwards (post Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan). Was surprised that EU, CA, US ever allowed any PIA flights to begin with! Failed state.

  6. @Shahla – “some shortcomings,” is the understatement of the year. A third of their pilots have fake credentials and among those were a cockpit crew who recently crashed a flight that killed nearly everyone onboard along with others on the ground because they neglected to put down the landing gear. What passes for acceptable inside of Pakistan is not open to debate in countries which actually enforce safety regulations and value the lives of the flying public and those of us who live under the flight paths of international airports. Hardly “extreme” under the circumstances. Six months is a light sentence.

  7. @John – big difference between General Aviation operations (to which you are referring) and scheduled airline operations, like PIA. Of course it is reactionary. I think it is a wise decision, but your opinion is noted.

  8. Its exaggerated step. In 2011, Indian Aviation Authorities declared having 4000 Fake pilot licenses but not a single country banned them. PIA identified and stopped them from flying yet doing such acts would let them feel discriminated.

  9. I personally wouldn’t feel safe flying them unless I see serious change. What about you lucky ?
    I feel like on many levels some international airlines have serious safety failures, and they should be called out

  10. PIA should have to rebrand and bring in some sort of regulatory authority that is impartial and independent to help them fix this issue.

  11. It is an embarrassment that this should be an issue anywhere commercial planes and international travel coincide. Trust of the public is really how they sell tickets. If you are concerned, as I would be, I would not spend my money, miles or even accept a free ticket from an airline that clearly has “Issues”. Aeroflot was at one time one of those airlines, not because the pilots had fake licenses, not that we ever would have heard about it, just considered airline of last choice considering the safety record they had at the time. I do think Canada should follow suit, since they cannot operate out of the US, Europe and many countries along the way, each one a place to crash or divert if there is a problem. Who knows even with the qualified pilots what the emergency training is like.

  12. I am blessed: never had to fly PIA for by reason. I can get very good “kheer” in so many Indian or Pakistani restaurants and snack-shops around the world. 🙂

  13. This revelation by Pakistan acknowledging that there are serious failings within their airline industry is refreshing and a step in the right direction for Pakistan. They clearly want to resolve this issue properly by coming out publicly. This way under the scrutiny of the world they will correct the problem and move towards positive improvement in an airline the world will be able to trust again. Well done to them. I bet there are plenty of other countries around the world with the same pilot certificate issues but too afraid to admit it!

  14. @ John
    you say that the US and EU banning PIA is ” stupid and reactionary”. Really ? Well then go tell that to the children, wives, husbands and all the 100 souls who lost their lives on board the recent PIA crash , that everyone now knows was due to criminal pilot behavior in unprofessionally trying to land their aircraft. Wonder if the pilot and co pilto licenses were among the fake ones found out.

  15. @Qasim fake news… only 21 fake-licensed pilots were noted by Indian aviation authorities, and one person was even arrested. And that too, the pilots in question were never involved in fatal accidents or incidents alike PIA. And the authorities also seemed to handle the problem well, as some of them were even arrested, while all the others were fired. The reason the airline was banned is because the FAA and other Aviation Authorities around the world suspect PIA for allowing the pilots to fly despite the fake licenses. Anyway, the ban hasn’t taken much of a hit on the airline, they rarely operated flights to the States.

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