Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has temporarily suspended Boeing 747 operations to Europe and switched to smaller Airbus A310s and Boeing 777s as a result of concerns expressed by European aviation authorities.

PIA spokesman Imran Ghaznavi confirms from Karachi that the state-owned airline is no longer using its 747-200/300s on flights to Europe as a result of issues raised by the European Commission following inspections.

He stresses, however, that the issues are minor and the airline should be able to return to normal operations for European services in the coming days.

“There are no restrictions by the EU on our flights. They have just pointed out certain cosmetic issues like cleanliness of the interior and exterior of the planes. We are working on it and things will be settled to their standards in a day or so,” says Ghaznavi.

“There are no concerns about the airworthiness of any of the aircraft. These are mostly cosmetic issues and we are addressing them.”

Pakistani newspapers say PIA has been forced to cancel many of its flights as a result of the withdrawal of the 747s from European services but Ghaznavi denies this.

He says there have only been a small number of flight cancellations and these were “strictly for commercial reasons” as it is “the lean period”. He also says the airline’s A310s and 777s are being used on flights on which the 747s were being operated.

Ghaznavi says the airline’s 747s are currently being operated on short-haul services so they can more easily be brought in for refurbishment work at home in order to address the European concerns.

PIA has an extensive European network and Ghaznavi says the airline plans to switch to 777s for all these services next year in line with its business turnaround plan.

The carrier now has five 777s which are mainly used for flights to the USA and Canada. It plans to add several more of the type through lease and purchase arrangements in the coming years.

Last month PIA escaped being added to the EC’s blacklist of airlines banned from flying to the EU but authorities said they would closely monitor the implementation of unspecified corrective actions that were promised.

Read about more Boeing 747 accidents and safety incidents on our 747 page