Pakistan International Airlines will not be allowed to fly into most of Europe for the next six months, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said on Tuesday, following revelations that nearly a third of Pakistani pilots had cheated on their pilot exams.
In a letter banning Pakistan's national airline, the EASA cited concerns about "the validity of the Pakistani pilot licenses and that Pakistan, as the State of operator, is currently not capable to certify and oversee its operators and aircraft in accordance with applicable international standards."
Pakistan's aviation minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, reported last week that 260 of 860 pilots had improperly gotten their licenses.
The scandal came to light during investigations into the May 22 Airbus A320 plane crash at Pakistan's southern port of Karachi, in which 97 people were killed. Further inquiries eventually led investigators to find that the Civil Aviation Authority had given out licenses to pilots who had cheated on their exams.
The government has since fired five officials of the regulatory agency, and PIA subsequently grounded 150 of its pilots for cheating.
PIA, which had not been flying to Europe due to the coronavirus pandemic, had been hoping to resume flights to Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Barcelona and Milan within the next two months.
"We have really hit rock bottom, I am so sad to say," PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said.
"The saddest part for PIA is that we had alerted the regulatory agency and the government," Hafeez said, regarding the cheating scandal, in an interview with the Associated Press.