Over 30% Of Pilots Have Fake Licenses At The Worst Airline In The World

In the aftermath of the May 22 crash of a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Lahore to Karachi a preliminary investigation attributed the cause to pilot error and lack of professionalism. Cockpit crew talked throughout the journey about COVID-19 and its affect on their families, while ignoring standard operating procedures. 97 of the 99 passengers and crew on board were killed.

The investigation further revealed that more than 30% of pilots at the airlines have fake licenses and aren’t qualified to fly. All pilots suspected of this have been suspended.

262 pilots are believed to have paid someone else to take the required exam for them. The airline for its part deflects, saying fake pilots licenses are an issue for other Pakistani airlines too. For several years I’ve controversially called PIA the worst airline in the world.


Boeing 777 on Approach to New York JFK in 2014, Copyright zhukovsky / 123RF Stock Photo

This isn’t an issue strictly in Pakistan, however. Last year a South African Airways pilot was discovered to have been flying for 25 years on a fake license after triggering an investigation for taking strange turns over the Swiss alps. His original certificate had been forged, and he avoided annual checks. Reportedly an airline safety officer helped him cover up the forgery.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Meh, how hard can it be to fly a plane. 30% sounds scary but we have no reference point. What percent of pilots at AA, BA (etc.) have a fake license? Now I’m not saying we should all go out and fly PIA, I am just making points and asking questions.

  2. There are a lot of other worst airlines. You just have a personal issue with PIA that is clear from your earlier posts about them. Get over it.

  3. You mention the case of the SAA pilot with the forged licence and it was quite eye-raising. However, I think there’s a world of difference between SAA, which has a good operating record and this seems (I hope) to be a bad apple story, and PIA where corruption and incompetence is baked into nearly every aspect of its operations, and the operations of the Pakistani regulatory agencies also.

    We may, and should, criticise the FAA for being too close to Boeing and losing sight of its function but this is in a different league altogether. I really wonder how safe Pakistani air space is at the moment. Are the air traffic controllers properly trained? We know that they don’t follow procedures but are they even competent?

  4. Why were they still flying to the US (before COVID19 that is) ? Don’t you think PIA should be permanently banned from ever flying into US skies?

  5. This is especially disheartening, since one of the biggest lessons from modern-day air crashes was to create a “sterile cockpit” rule, prohibiting pilots to carry non-flight-related conversations during the critical phases of the flights, ie take-offs and landings.

    These guys not only flouted that principle, but also somehow decided to retract the landing gear during their (totally preventable) runway incursion. Unlike their poor passengers, I guess these pilots somehow may have deserved their fate due to their apparent disregard for safety and the lives they were carrying onboard.

  6. >> “how hard can it be to fly a plane”

    Well, in this particular case, it was harder than the urge to stay alive. Obviously.

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