AFP

US bans Pakistan's PIA over pilot licence scandal 10 July 2020 - 14:20

The United States has banned Pakistan International Airlines from operating chartered flights to the country, the airline said, after it announced nearly 150 pilots would be grounded over fake or dubious licences. It follows a similar move by European Union aviation regulators to bar the state-run carrier for six months. PIA said in a statement that the Federal Aviation Authority in the US had revoked approval for the airline due to "recent events identified by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority that are of serious concern to aviation safety". Pakistan's aviation minister revealed in June that a government review had found around 260 of the country's 860 active pilots hold fake licenses or cheated on exams.PIA at the time said it would immediately ground about a third of its 434 pilots, just weeks after one of its planes crashed in Karachi killing 98 people -- an accident blamed on pilot error.So far 17 pilots have been fired in the first phase of its investigation, a PIA spokesman told AFP.The airline had suspended its commercial operations to the US in 2017 after booking financial losses on the route.But in April the US Department of Transport granted it special permission to operate chartered flights for one year, largely to bring back stranded Pakistanis during the coronavirus lockdown. Until the 1970s, Pakistan's largest airline was considered a top regional carrier but its reputation plummeted amid chronic mismanagement, frequent cancellations and financial struggles.

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