LAHORE – The European Union (EU) has decertified the maintenance certification of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and issued a notice to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to improve its maintenance standards within a couple of months; otherwise, the airline would have to stop operations in the EU countries, sources in the airlines said on Saturday.

It is worth mentioning that the standard of the PIA engineering and maintenance was equal to that of any European country after obtaining the certification from the EU-sponsored European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2004. Within the first year of the EASA’s approval, the national flag carrier started repairing foreign aircraft and earned $5 million, as it became a continuous source of income.

A senior aviation expert said the move could be complete or partial, since the last EU ban on the PIA flights was partial; however, certain aircraft were cleared by the EU inspectors after check to fly to the European countries.

In 2007, some PIA planes, including A-310 and B-747, were banned for the EU destinations.

According to the senior PIA officers, the incompetence and mistakes of the Deputy Managing Director (DMD) Saleem Siyani, hired by former managing director Capt Ijaz Haroon against a very lucrative salary of more than $20,000, were responsible for the humiliating situation faced by the PIA.

They said the DMD was hired only because of his skill so as to ensure proper maintenance of the PIA fleet, but the exercise had proved futile.

The former PIA MD and the defence minister had claimed that the PIA’s maintenance would improve after the induction of Siyani, but interestingly, the EU was going to ban PIA flights for EU members countries for the second time after his appointment.

The PIA management had been warned to ensure better maintenance of aircraft, but it failed to rectify its mistakes, resulting in suspension of the EASA’ certification.

Sources in PIA said the reason behind the current mess was poor supply mechanism for spare parts, as the protocol set by the aircraft manufacturers was not being followed.

When contacted, a PIA spokesman Tahir Khalique rejected the reports of decertification, saying the airline had not received any letter on the subject, as only a verbal warning was issued to the CAA.

The EU warning was motivated the PIA’s plan to purchase B-777 from the Boeing Company, while the EU-based Airbus wanted to pressurise the airline through EU to consider its aircraft as well, he added.

He said negotiations were also underway to purchase five Airbuses, which would end the pressure game automatically, he concluded.