PIA to Resume UK Flying Before Ban Ends, Here’s How

The UK aviation regulator says Pakistan International Airlines can resume flying to the UK before the end of its sixth-month ban using chartered aircraft 

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has approved a request by Pakistan International Airlines to recommence services connecting Islamabad to Birmingham and Manchester using chartered aircraft. 

The decision comes after the flag carrier’s permission to operate services to the country was suspended following the decision of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to withdraw the airline’s Third Country Operator safety certificate. 

PIA Boeing 777
PIA cannot use its own fleet for these services and has had to source aircraft from wet-lease operators. Flickr Commons/km30192002

EASA implemented a six-month ban after it became concerned about the carrier’s ability to demonstrate it had a comprehensive safety management system. Its worries were intensified following a fatal crash involving one of the airline’s Airbus A320s in May. 

As of August 14, the carrier is now approved to operate the air services to the UK using wet-leased Airbus A330-300s sourced from Portuguese charter airline Hi Fly. 

In a statement, the CAA said: “[We have] approved a request from the company to be allowed to recommence services between Islamabad to Birmingham and Manchester using aircraft chartered from the EU carrier Hi Fly Limited. PIA’s Foreign Carrier Permit has been amended accordingly. This approval came into effect from 14 August 2020.”

Hi Fly A330
The carrier is planning to wet-lease an Airbus A330 from Portugese charter airline Hi Fly. Wikimedia Commons/Anna Zvereva

EASA’s prohibition on PIA operating flights to the rest of Europe remains in place. Prior to the July 1 ban, the carrier had also flown to Copenhagen, Paris/CDG, Oslo, Milan/Malpensa and Barcelona. There has been no word on whether the carrier will reopen its London/Heathrow links. 

Last month, the United States joined Europe in banning the state-run airline from operating charter flights to the country. Reuters reported that the Federal Aviation Administration raised concerns over Pakistani pilot certifications after it was found that almost a third of its pilots may have falsified qualifications. 

In 2007, EASA barred most of PIA’s aircraft from flying in the EU because of safety concerns over its ageing fleet. The ban affected 35 of the airline’s 42-strong fleet, with just seven Boeing 777s exempted.  

During this period, the carrier drafted in 777-200ERs from Malaysia Airlines to fill the gap in capacity.