It has been revealed today that Pakistan International Airlines will not be appealing the EASA decision to ban it from flying in Europe for six months. The airline has said it was not worth pursuing an appeal until the issue with fake pilots’ licenses was resolved. With other airlines stepping up their efforts to connect to Pakistan, PIA will have a tough job coming back to the European market next year.
No appeal to be made
It has been confirmed today that Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will not be appealing the European Union imposed its six-month flight ban. In a report published by Reuters, a spokesperson for the airline, Abdullah Khan, said,
“We’ve decided that filing an appeal at this stage will be counter-productive.”
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) instigated a ban on PIA flying into any of the EU countries back in June. At the time, this was due to concerns over the safety of the airline, as well as the scandal involving dozens of PIA pilots who reportedly falsified their credentials.
The airline had until August 31st to appeal this ban. However, officials reportedly told Reuters that all stakeholders in the airline had agreed together that there would be no point in appealing at this stage. They are seeking to conclude the investigation into falsified pilots’ documents before any attempt to resume flying into Europe is made.
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Rethinking its turnaround plan
With no appeal being made, PIA will not be allowed to fly to Europe before the end of the year. If things had gone to plan, 2020 should have been a transformative year for PIA, as it had last year formed a robust turnaround plan to become a profitable airline.
The plan had focused on leveraging more lucrative European routes, as well as inducting at least seven new aircraft to the fleet by 2022. It had hoped that 2020 would be a break-even year for PIA, with a view to returning to profitability by 2023.
However, the airline did not count on the challenges that 2020 brought with it. The COVID outbreak, coupled with the devasting crash in Karachi and then the licensing scandal, put the airline well on the back foot. It seems its expansion plan is now on the back burner, at least until it can resolve its internal issues.
PIA spokesperson Kahn told Reuters that the turnaround plan would be revised in time, in consultation with the International Air Transport Association (IATA). IATA has recently begun an operational safety audit of the carrier, although it maintains that this is standard practice following any type of aviation accident.
Carriers step in to fill the gap
PIA has been struggling to maintain its market share in recent years, with the big Middle East airlines starting to pull traffic away from the flag carrier. It’s been a bit of a kick in the teeth for an airline that was instrumental in launching Emirates years ago.
Since the airline was banned from flying to Europe, other airlines have jumped in to plug the gap. British Airways announced a resumption of flights to Pakistan at the start of August, and Virgin Atlantic has recently revealed a substantial Pakistani route expansion. With the Middle East three also stepping up efforts to fly into the country, it’s going to be a tough market for PIA to come back to once the ban is lifted.