US Embassy Warns Against Traveling On Pakistani Air Carriers

The United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, is warning American citizens to avoid flying on Pakistani air carriers. The travel alert issued yesterday follows a directive from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on July 15. The advisory said that the FAA had downgraded Pakistani airlines to Category 2 status because they do not comply with specific International Civil Aviation Organisation safety standards.

Pakistani Airlines getty
Americans abroad should enroll in the STEP program. Photo: Getty Images

The travel advisory from the Islamabad Embassy is as follows,

“According to the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment program, air carriers from countries with Category 2 ratings are not allowed to initiate new service to the United States, are restricted to current levels of existing service to the United States, and are not permitted to carry the code of US carriers on any flights.”

US nationals should enroll in STEP

The travel advisory also told American citizens resident or traveling in Pakistan to monitor local media for updates regarding traveling to, from or within Pakistan. Americans in Pakistan are advised to sign up for the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive travel and security updates.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

What is STEP?

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) allows US citizens and permanent residents who are overseas to enroll their trip with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.

What are the benefits of STEP?

  • STEP is a free service that allows US nationals abroad to receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions
  • STEP helps the US Embassy get in contact with you in an emergency
  • STEP allows family and friends to get in touch with you in an emergency

Pilots had fake licenses

Airlines in Pakistan got downgraded by the FAA after it came to light that many Pakistani pilots had obtained their licenses fraudulently. In June, Pakistan grounded a third of all pilots after learning that they may have falsified their qualifications. The information was obtained following an investigation into the crash of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Flight 8303. PIA flight 8303 crashed several miles short of the runway at Jinnah International Airport (KHI).

AirBlue is a lesser-known Pakistani airline. Photo: RHL Images via Wikipedia

While covering the investigation into the disaster that killed 97 people, CNN reported Pakistan Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan as saying,

“262 pilots in the country did not take the exam themselves and had paid someone else to sit it on their behalf.”

“They don’t have flying experience,” he said. This means that around one in three of the countries, 860 active pilots have a fake license.

Some fake license pilots fly for foreign airlines

Following the Ministers’ remarks, Pakistan’s flagship carrier PIA immediately grounded all of its pilots suspected of having false credentials.

Around one in three Pakistani pilots had a fake license. Photo: Getty Images

“PIA acknowledges that fake licenses are not just a PIA issue but spread across the entire Pakistani airline industry,” spokesperson Abdullah Khan said. He also pointed out that some of the fake pilots were flying for foreign carriers.

While no mention was made about whether or not the pilots involved in the crash of flight 8303 had fake licenses, it did say that they were chatting about COVID-19 and ignored advice from Air Traffic Control.

Would you still fly on a Pakistani carrier knowing that the pilot may have a fake license? Please let us know what you think in the comments.