LONDON – The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has advised the State of Pakistan to suspend the issuance of new Pilot licenses.

ICAO stated that the country must undertake “immediate corrective actions,” according to a report from Reuters. In the letter, the organization placed emphasis on the country strengthening its regulation towards Pilot licenses.

“Pakistan should improve and strengthen its licensing system to ensure that it takes into account all necessary processes and procedures and prevents inconsistencies and malpractices before new licenses are issued and privileges of suspended licenses are re-established.”

An official in the Pakistani Aviation Ministry was keen to note that licenses have not been handed out since July. This comes following the aftermath of PK8303 as well as the initial report about dubious Pilot licenses.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Still Time for Changes

ICAO has given the Pakistani Government an extension on a deadline to make necessary reforms ahead of an ICAO audit to assess its systems. The initial assessment was due for November but has since been delayed to June next year.

This also comes following the International Air Transport Association (IATA) completing its safety audit on national flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PK). ICAO has been quiet on this issue, declining to comment on the ongoing situation.

According to Reuters again, it did say that it is “helping Pakistan to recognize concerns, and if they do not take swift action on them we will actively notify other countries about them.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Significant Pilot Suspensions

Since the aftermath of PK8303, 50 licenses have been revoked due to them being dubious in nature. On top of this, the country has suspended 32 Pilots for another year.

For PK, this has not come as an easy thing to cope with. Earlier this month, the carrier had announced plans to withdraw its European staff completely.

The airline had partially resumed flights to the UK, thanks to carrier HiFly (5K), who serviced the routes due to the UK Civil Aviation Administration suspending its licenses too. The U.S Department for Transportation also followed suit with this.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Detriment to PK?

This scandal has made the likes of British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic (VS) capitalize on the Pakistani market, especially during COVID-19. Back in August, BA had resumed flights to the country, with the airline doubling down with flights to Lahore (LHE) earlier this month.

From December, VS will be servicing LHE on a four times per week basis as well as Islamabad (ISB) on a thrice weekly basis.

This will no doubt cause a significant detriment to PK, especially with its previous presence out of Manchester (MAN), Birmingham (BHX) and London Heathrow (LHR).

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

What Next?

The next steps imply the Pakistan Government making the reforms needed for ICAO, IATA, and other organizations to rebuild that level of trust when it comes to safety. It is essential for the country to do it; otherwise, the future of PK could be in doubt, even away from COVID-19.

Other airlines will quite happily occupy the space that the Indian flag-carrier has seen in recent years, particularly in the UK market with BA and VS. It will be interesting to see how the battle fares between BA, VS, and PK and to see which carrier will withdraw first.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Featured Image: Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777-300. Photo: Wikimedia Commons