RAWALPINDI: The United States Department of Transportation has granted permission to Pakistan International Airlines to operate 12 round-trip or one-way chartered flights to evacuate citizens stranded in both countries, only by using Boeing 777-240LR aircraft.
PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said this was the first time the national flag carrier would be operating direct flights to the US as PIA planes did not have the capacity to fly directly to the US before the 9/11 attacks.
However, after the attacks, US authorities refused permission for direct flights because of security reasons up until now, the spokesman said.
Special authorisation granted by the US Department of Transportation will be effective from April 29, 2020 and will expire on April 29, 2021. The airline must also comply with all US government requirements concerning security.
According to a letter by the US Department of Transportation, dated April 29, PIA will be allowed to operate 12 round-trip or one-way passenger or cargo flights.
The PIA was asked to use only two specific aircraft of Boeing Company: Boeing model B777-240LR (serial No 33781) and Boeing model B777-240LR (serial No 33782).
PIA will be bound to inform the US transportation department, in writing, either by email or fax, about the specific route of the passenger or cargo chartered flight no less than five business days after the operation of the flight.
It further said: “For any passenger chartered flight, which is headed to the US from a destination outside Pakistan, PIA will have to inform, in writing, the transportation department of the route it is taking three business days before the planned departure of flight. If PIA desires to operate or change the route of the flight less than three business days before its planned departure, it can request the department to waive off three day pre-notification requirement upon a showing of good cause.”
In case a PIA flight is headed to the US from an airport outside Pakistan, it must obtain a security clearance from the Transportation Security Administration. Furthermore, the aircraft flying to the US must carry the copy of special authorisation, issued by the transportation department.
Apart from the above conditions, PIA must also comply with the rules and regulations set by other concerned US departments, including the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s standards.
The US department said in its letter that it reserved the right to deny operation of a specific flight if it determined that the conduct of a flight by PIA in a proposed city-pair market would not be in the public interest.
Air Marshal Arshad Malik, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PIA, had earlier this week formally requested US Authorities to allow PIA to operate repatriation flights direct to the US.
This came after exhaustive backchannel work by the PIA management, involving highest levels of the government, foreign office, and diplomatic missions and showed warming relationship between the Trump administration and the Pakistan government.
The PIA spokesman said that the permission also suggested that the US government came to the aid of stranded Pakistani citizens in the US at the time of need and the US diplomatic mission in Pakistan played a pivotal role in the matter.