For the first time in its aviation history, Pakistan's cash-strapped national carrier - Pakistan International Airlines - has been given permission by the US authorities to enter America directly, PTI reported quoting PIA spokesperson. A statement issued by the US Department of Transportation allowed Pakistan International Airlines to operate 12 flights in a month. The permission will expire on April 29, 2021, Dawn News reported.
Until now, the PIA had to pass through security checks at airports in Europe and Britain before entering the United States – owing to the latter's security regulations, the Express Tribune reported. “This is the first time Pakistan's national flag carrier will be operating direct flights to the US,” airline's spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said on Thursday night.
The spokesman also said that the airline had no planes and capacity to fly directly to the US prior to the 9/11 terror attack when after the twin tower attacks the US authorities banned direct flights from Pakistan due to security up until now. The terror attacks killed 2,977 people, including 40 Indians, when al-Qaeda terrorists crashed hijacked planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.
The PIA will be bound to inform the transportation department, in writing, of the route it took for any passenger or cargo chartered flights no less than five business days after the operation.
For any passenger flight, which is headed to the US from a destination outside Pakistan, the PIA will have to inform, in writing, the transportation department of the route it is taking three business days before the operation. Owing to security concerns, the US had not allowed any direct flight that originated from a Pakistani airport into its airspace. In October 2017, the PIA discontinued its flights to the US because of rising operational costs and in a bid to cut losses it had been facing.
However, PIA officials have been trying to obtain clearance from the US and negotiations have been underway for the past two years, PTI report said. In March this year, a US Transportation Security Administration team visited Pakistan to conduct a final security inspection.
Cash-strapped PIA has been running into huge financial losses. For years, the airline with 18,000 plus employee and a fleet of 32 aeroplanes has only been adding billions to its loss sheets.
The PIA faced a huge loss worth Rs 180 million (USD 1.1 million), according to Pakistani media reports. The aviation is the worst-hit sector by the coronavirus pandemic with air traffic, barring cargo and military planes, coming to a standstill.