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A senior official at Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is hopeful that flights to Europe and the UK will resume this year as they expect the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Safety Review Board will decide in their favour.

“We are hopeful that EASA will give TCO (Third Country Operators) authorisations to PIA to operate flights to Europe when its Safety Review Board meets in May,” PIA GM Corporate Communication Abdullah H. Khan told Business Recorder.

The EASA banned the airline from flying to its most lucrative routes in Europe and the UK after the crash of a PIA plane in Karachi killed nearly 100 people and a fake pilot licence scandal erupted later in 2020.

The ban is still in place and has cost the airline nearly Rs40 billion in revenue annually, according to government records presented in parliament.

The airline has been pleading with EASA to lift the ban even provisionally, but to no avail.

However, the senior official at PIA was confident that the turnaround was in the offing.

Khan added that as soon as EASA gives the go-ahead for flight resumption, PIA would start direct flights to Paris within days of permissions.   Flights to the UK would require separate authorisation from UK’s Department for Transportation (UKDfT) which PIA seeks to obtain simultaneously.

“However, as EASA clearance is a precondition for other authorities, we feel that once its granted, others will follow suit,” he added.

Pakistan is currently in the process of privatising its loss-making national airline with PM Shehbaz Sharif seeking the final schedule for the implementation of the sell-off.

A detailed plan for the privatisation was apparently finalised during the caretaker setup, but it needed cabinet approval. It was granted two days before the General Elections, but progress on its PIA’s privatisation has since been slow as the new government took over.

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