US embassy issues travel advisory for travelling on Pakistani airlines

Advisory referred to downgrading of Pakistan to Category 2 rating by FAA as a reason to advise US citizens from using Pakistani airlines. Photo: File

The US Embassy in Islamabad has issued a fresh ‘Travel Alert’ for its citizens in the country asking them to monitor local media for updates before travelling on Pakistani air carriers and get registered themselves in a travel safety programme.

The notification, issued on Tuesday, referred to the downgrading of Pakistan to Category 2 rating by the US Federal Aviation Administration  on July 15. It said that the Pakistani airlines  do not comply with certain International Civil Aviation Organisation safety standards.

“According to the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment programme, air carriers from countries with Category 2 ratings are not allowed to initiate new service to the United States, are restricted to current levels of existing service to the United States, and are not permitted to carry the code of US carriers on any flights,” read the statement. 

The advisory asked the citizens to “Monitor local media for updates on travel to, from, and within Pakistan on Pakistani air carriers” and “enroll in Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive travel and security updates”.

It further stated that US citizens residing or traveling in Pakistan are advised that US Embassy and Mission personnel are precluded from traveling on any Pakistani airline without prior authorization.

Pakistan was downgraded to a lower-ranking by the US authorities after a fake licence issue of Pakistani pilots shocked the aviation industry in May.

In June, Pakistan had grounded almost a third of its pilots after discovering they may have falsified their qualifications.

Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan, while briefing the National Assembly on a plane crash had said: “The inquiry which was initiated in February 2019 showed that 262 pilots did not give the exam themselves and asked someone else to give it on their behalf,” adding that the pilots did not have the proper flying experience either.

Soon after the statement, the national flag carrier was barred from entering the airspace of several countries and Pakistani pilots — who had received their credentials from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) — were grounded.

The fake licence saga had begun after  a probe carried out after a PIA plane crashed into a narrow residential street in Karachi on May 23, damaging several houses in a densely-populated area in the vicinity of the airport.

The airliner was about to land at the Jinnah International Airport when the pilot lost control of the airliner.

The investigation report also held the air traffic controller responsible for the incident.

The PK-8303 tragedy was the third most-catastrophic aviation disaster in the country’s history.

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