Central Asian carrier Turkmenistan Airlines appears to be attempting to charter flights to cover services from the European Union, which were suspended Feb. 4 by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on safety grounds.

According to Birmingham Airport's website, the Feb. 5 evening flight to Ashgabat—which the airline had hoped to charter an alternative flight—was ultimately canceled.

Turkmenistan Airlines could not immediately be reached for comment.

A spokesman for the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said that “discussions are ongoing to work out what to do with that flight,” and further information would be disclosed via Twitter as and when it became available.

A spokesperson for EASA said the agency had suspended the safety authorization of Turkmenistan Airlines “pending restoring of compliance with specific international aviation safety standards.”

The airline previously had third country operator (TCO) authorization to serve destinations in the EU. The TCO regulation is the centralized EASA process to authorize non-European operators to perform commercial air transport activities in the EU. EASA member states may not issue operating permits for commercial flights to third country operators that do not hold TCO authorization.   

In a Feb. 4 statement on its website, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “EASA has suspended Turkmenistan Airlines flights to and from the EU pending confirmation that it meets international safety standards.

This means that Turkmenistan Airlines flights between the UK (London Heathrow and Birmingham) and Turkmenistan (Ashgabat) do not have permission to travel to and from the UK.”

The CAA has advised stranded passengers that they “may need to make their own arrangements to return home.”

Turkmenistan Airlines operates a fleet of Boeing 737s, 757s and 777s. In addition to London and Birmingham, the airline serves Frankfurt and Paris in the EU, and Moscow, St Petersburg, Ankara, Istanbul, Dubai and Yerevan. It provides onward connections from Ashgabat to Amritsar and Delhi in India, Bangkok, Thailand and Beijing, China.

Kerry Reals, kerry@realsreporting.com