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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA) will challenge the government's list of 262 pilots accused of holding "dubious licences" in the Supreme Court.

Captain Chaudhry Salman Riaz, President PALPA stated that PALPA has consulted with senior lawyers and decided to challenge the list in the Supreme Court soon.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) informed the Supreme Court of Pakistan in suo motu case on Saturday that of the 262 suspected grounded pilots, 141 are from PIA, 10 Serene Air and nine from Airblue, 102 other pilots are not employed by the PIA, Serene Air or Airblue.

On Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the Chief Executive Officer of PIA Air Marshal Arshad Malik to expedite restructuring plan of the national flag carrier and present him with a framework in a week's time.

Sources said that PIA is likely to suffer losses of around Rs 33 billion following a ban imposed by European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA, the UK and the US on its flights over security concerns due to alleged pilots' dubious licenses, sources said.

Pakistani envoys have been tasked to resolve the issue with EASA, US and Britain, while Pakistani British parliamentarians have also been engaged for the purpose. The national carrier along with Pakistani ambassadors will file an appeal against EASA decision this week, sources maintained.

The national flag carrier operates 23 flights weekly with 9 to London, 10 to Manchester and four flights for Birmingham. For EU, PIA runs six flights to Paris, Milan, Barcelona and Copenhagen. PIA flew to 27 international destinations with 5 in Europe excluding UK.

On the hand, the PIA also faced losses due to cancellation of Hajj operation and Umrah by Saudi Arabia due to coronavirus pandemic. Around Rs11 billion to Rs 12 billion is received annually from Hajj flights and Rs 20 billion from Umrah flights.

On June 30, in a major setback to the national flag carrier, EASA barred PIA from flight operations to EU member states for six months over security concerns. Later, the United Kingdom also suspended the flight operations of Pakistan's national carrier to and from their airports.

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan told Business Recorder that the Finance Division is looking into the matter of financial losses of PIA and decided how to deal with it.

On Thursday, the United States transport authority also revoked the permission granted to the PIA to operate a number of special direct flights to the US, as the fallout from the revelation of Pakistani pilots' alleged dubious licences continues.

On same day PIA announced to resume its regular flight operations to United Arab Emirates. Previously PIA was operating one way relief flights to UAE to repatriate stranded Pakistanis in the emirates, but now, after obtaining permissions, will operate regular flights for the convenience of passengers.

On June 8, 2020, PIA Chief Executive Officer Air Marshal Arshad Malik apprised Prime Minister Imran Khan that the national flag carrier was running into a loss of around Rs 6 billion on a monthly basis due to suspension of regular international flights. A sum of Rs 24 billion was being spent yearly on the payment of salaries to its 14,500 employees alone, the PIA CEO said.

Now the airline is struggling to recover from a fatal crash, years of losses, a collapse in global air travel and the revelation that almost a third of the nation's pilots obtained fake licenses.

To compensate for the losses on international flights operations, PIA reduced its fares by Rs 6,928 for one-way domestic flights. Travelling to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad will now cost Rs 9,572 as opposed to Rs16, 500. The May 22 crash of PIA flight PK-8303 badly affects the domestic revenue.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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