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U.S. bans Pakistan International Airlines flights over pilot concerns

FILE PHOTO: A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane prepares to land at Islamabad airport in Islamabad February 24, 2007. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood/File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Transportation said it has revoked permission for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to conduct charter flights to the United States, citing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concerns over Pakistani pilot certifications.

The information is contained in a revocation of special authorisation dated July 1 provided by the department to Reuters on Friday.

Pakistan last month grounded almost a third of its pilots after discovering they may have falsified their qualifications.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency suspended PIA’s authorisation to fly to the bloc for six months in a blow to the carrier’s operations.

“It is a setback for us,” the PIA’s spokesman, Abdullah H. Khan told Reuters in an email. The airline was planning to expand the current special flights arrangements to re-initiate a regular schedule from Pakistan to the United States to provide direct flights, he said.

“We are continuously engaged with them and sincerely hope that with the confidence building measures, the decision would be reviewed,” Khan said.

Pakistan’s grounding of pilots with dubious credentials followed the crash of a PIA jet in May that killed 97 people.

Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney and SAsif Shahzad in Islamabad; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Richard Pullin and Chizu Nomiyama

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