UAE approves PAL's 5th Freedom except UK, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait flights

31 January 2009

Abu Dhabi, UAE: The United Arab Emirates represented by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA)General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) General Civil Aviation Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Republic of Philippines on 29th January 2009 in Abu Dhabi, to increase flights between the two countries.

The MoU was signed by His Excellency Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, Director General of the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), General Civil Aviation Authority in the UAE and H.E Doroteo A. Reyes II, Undersecretary for Civil Aviation, Department of Transportation and Communications and Chairman, RP Air Negotiating Panel in Philippines. The signing ceremony was attended by H.E Mohamed Ibrahim Al Juwaid, the UAE ambassador to Philippines and H.E Libran N. Cabactulan, Philippines Ambassador to UAE Representatives in addition to representatives from Abu Dhabi Department of Transport, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Sharjah Civil Aviation Department.

The two delegations agreed to confirm the designation of Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Air Arabia, RAK Airways and to designate Fly Dubai as a new National Carrier from UAE Side.

According to the MoU both parties agreed a phased increase of (89) flights weekly passenger as following:

- Five (5) additional weekly frequencies for each side to/from Manila;

- Forty two (42) additional weekly frequencies for each side to/from Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (Clark);

- Twenty one (21) additional weekly frequencies for each side to/from Cebu International Airport; and

- Twenty one (21) additional weekly frequencies for each side to/from other airports in the Philippines.

The two parties agreed to allow the designated airlines of each side to operate up to 600 tons per week per direction to/from Cebu International Airport. And they agreed that the designated airlines of the UAE shall have the right to exercise full fifth freedom traffic rights only up to fourteen (14) weekly frequencies between any intermediate point(s) and Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (Clark) only, and any point(s) beyond, except Japan, the USA and Canada.

The designated airlines of the Philippines shall have the right to exercise full fifth freedom traffic rights only up to fourteen (14) weekly frequencies between any intermediate point(s) and any one point in the UAE only, and any point(s) beyond, except the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Both delegations agreed to hold consultations within one year from the date signing the said MoU.

PAL rises in Vegas as McCarran traffic falls

By Richard N. Velotta
Las Vegas Sun

Fri, Jan 30, 2009 (2 a.m.)

Last year ended on a sour note — another double-digit percentage decline — for passenger traffic at McCarran International Airport.

In December 3.2 million passengers arrived and departed from the airport, a 14.1 percent decline from December 2007, bringing the annual total of passengers to 44.1 million, 7.7 percent fewer than in 2007.

The five busiest carriers at McCarran had declines for the month, the worst being US Airways’ 31.2 percent drop to 468,890 passengers and United Airlines, which was down 14 percent to 186,037.

Southwest Airlines, the airport’s busiest carrier, had a 5.4 percent decline to 1.2 million passengers for the month.

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air showed a 6 percent downturn to 153,630 passengers for December. The airline managed to squeeze out a fractional increase in passengers for the year with a total of 1.7 million.

Capacity cuts by many airlines to match the sluggish tourism economy resulted in most of the 27 domestic and international carriers that have flights at McCarran flying fewer passengers than they did last year.

Some airlines that restored previously canceled flights or added flights or increased capacity fared the best. Airlines that had more passengers to Las Vegas in 2008 than in 2007 include AirTran, JetBlue, Virgin America, Hawaiian, Aeromexico, Aviacsa, Philippine Airlines, Thomas Cook and Westjet in addition to Allegiant.

Despite the decline in passenger numbers at McCarran, it didn’t surrender its status as the sixth busiest United States airport, according to statistics released by the Federal Aviation Administration last week.

McCarran edged out Washington’s Dulles International Airport for the sixth position, the FAA said. The top five ahead of McCarran are Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International, Denver International and Los Angeles International.

The only change was Denver International leapfrogging Los Angeles for the fourth position since 2007. Denver moved up primarily because of major growth by Southwest Airlines, which more than doubled its presence there.

Southwest, meanwhile, issued its fourth quarter and 2008 financial results last week. Although the Dallas-based airline reported its 36th consecutive year of profitability, it showed a net loss for the fourth quarter.

The company reported a loss of $56 million, 8 cents a share, on record quarterly revenue of $2.73 billion. That compared with net income of $111 million, 15 cents a share, on revenue of $2.49 billion for the same quarter in 2007.

Southwest attributed the loss to a 4.5 percent decline in revenue passengers, in part, because of capacity cuts, and a loss in the company’s fuel hedging program. The recent dramatic decrease in fuel costs forced Southwest to take a special charge of $117 million for its fuel hedge portfolio in the quarter.

The company also said it has noticed “softness in post-January bookings” after a fairly healthy holiday travel season that extended into January.

CEB expands hub for Siargao Route

Cebu Pacific to fly to Siargao in March

By Jeffrey M. Tupas
PDI Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 17:13:00 01/28/2009

DAVAO CITY, Philippines -- Cebu Pacific will service Mindanao's surfing capital, Siargao Island, starting March.

According to the airline, its planes will start flying to Siargao from Cebu about two months before the expected influx of tourists for the annual surfing festival.

"This will make Cebu Pacific the first commercial airline to fly to Siargao. The company will also open in February direct flights from Cebu to Cotabato and Manila-Catarman and Calbayog in Samar; Virac in Catanduanes, and Cauayan in Isabela Province," RG Orense, Cebu Pacific communications officer, told reporters Tuesday.

A Manila-Siargao flight was also being finalized, he said.

Orense said the increase in passenger load also prompted them to add one more flight for the Davao-Manila route. Currently, Cebu Pacific has five Manila-bound flights daily from Davao City.

In a statement, Lance Gokongwei, Cebu Pacific president and chief executive officer, said that the growth "can be attributed to the increase in our seat capacity coupled with our trademark low fares."

In 2008, the airline company flew 6.7 million passengers and was optimistic the number would increase to 9.3 million in 2009, he said.

"We were able to successfully convince more Filipinos to travel by air despite economic uncertainties. 2008 challenged us to look for ways to stimulate travel and sustain our domestic and international operations. We will continue to look for ways to deliver a simple and reliable product and the public can expect more innovation from Cebu Pacific this year," he said.

Seair flies Puerto Princesa-Kota Kinabalu twice a week

January 28, 2009

Davao City -- Fresh from the debut of its Puerto Princesa-KotaKinabalu flight last November 2008, Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAir) nowflies the route twice a week, ushering a more upbeat outlook on tourism inthe Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area(BIMP-EAGA).

The Philippine domestic carrier, which features the 32-seater Dornier 328aircraft, will have flights from Puerto Princesa to Kota Kinabalu everyTuesday and Friday, from the initial once-a-week schedule. Felisa Torres, Puerto Princesa City Tourism Council (CTC) president said that the said routes should be promoted intensively and marketed competitively for it to be sustained. Torres has earlier said in an article that this is a welcome development tthat will help boost their local economy.

SEAir president Avelino Zapanta earlier said in an article that the airlinewill look into increasing the frequency of flights on the route to twice a week in January, depending on the response. Meanwhile, their tourism counterparts in Sabah also showed the same enthusiasm citing a slight tourist increase from the Philippines to Sabah during the first semester of 2008.

"We are very optimistic that with the strengthening of this air link we can further boost the tourism and economy of both countries and in turn fortify efforts of the BIMP-EAGA cooperation," said Undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana. MEDCo acts as the Philippine coordinating office for BIMP-EAGA inwhich Mindanao and Palawan are its focus areas.

The SEAir inaugural flights scheduled last November 28 commenced from Clark to Caticlan to Puerto Princesa to Kota Kinabalu. Established in 1995, SEAIR started its operations with two nine-seater airplanes.

To date, SEA air has flown almost three million passengers to 12 local tourist destinations. Leyretana added that the opening of another economic gateway in Palawan is"a milestone in encouraging interest in Mindanao and Palawan as the Philippine EAGA focus areas, especially in the area of tourism and trade.

"The Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area(BIMP-EAGA) is a major collaboration to boost the socio-economic development among poor regions of its member-countries by strengthening policies that will enhance the movement of people and goods. EAGA members are pushing for more regular air connections to link the fourcountries to the rest of the world and accelerate the planned integration of EAGA's tourism development. (MEDCo)

CAB approves more flights to Japan

By Paolo Luis G. Montecillo

MANILA, Philippines - The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has approved the separate applications of three local airlines to increase flights to Japan.

An official from the regulator’s Air Rights and Operating Division said the applications of Air Philippines, Cebu Pacific and Zest Airways for flights to Japan were approved at a meeting on Thursday.

Cebu Pacific, which now offers three weekly round-trip flights to Osaka, Japan from Manila, sought the CAB’s permission to increase the service to once daily.

Zest Airways, formerly Asian Spirit, also got the go-signal to fly once daily to Osaka from Manila, and once daily from Cebu to Fukuoka.

"The market in Japan is a combination of tourists and overseas Filipino workers that have families there," Zest Airways Chairman Alfredo M. Yao said in an interview Tuesday.

While CAB officials have admitted that traffic between the two countries has declined as a result of the slowing global economy, Mr. Yao, who also owns juice maker Zest-O Corp., remained optimistic. Zest Airways plans to mount its new flights starting May.

"We intend to use these entitlements as soon as we can," Candice A. Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice-president for marketing, said in a separate phone interview.

But the Gokongwei-owned budget carrier had yet to decide when it would use the air rights.

Efforts to reach Air Philippines officials were unsuccessful.

Presently, the only local carriers offering flights to Japan are Cebu Pacific and flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL).

PAL flies from Cebu to Osaka twice weekly. The Lucio Tan-owned carrier revived the service in October, which it stopped offering in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the US.

Zest Airways said it had not decided on the ticket price for its Japan service. Both PAL and Cebu Pacific’s regular roundtrip flights to Japan cost around $500. — BusinessWorld

How Deep is PAL's relationship with Airbus

January 22, 2009

As a Consortium, Airbus S.A.S begun its official relationship with Philippine Airlines with the delivery of A300B4 planes. PAL bought 5 pieces of those great aircraft.

Its relationship with Europe however dates way back starting with Vickers of United Kingdom.

The Airbus connection started with the one eleven.

The BAC 1-11 story began in the 1950s as Vickers Armstrong and Hunting Aircraft. In May 1961, British United Airways, now British Airways, ordered the first 10 aircraft. First delivery was made in July 28, 1963.

By November 2,  1964  Philippine Airlines Ordered two aircraft with one option exercised on December 28, 1965 to replace its Vickers Viscount 784 fleet laid out in a 74 seat single class configuration. Delivery was made in 1966 of the two orders but the option was deferred delivery until. PAL's first 1-11 was a 402AP series (SN 91) delivered on April 19, 1966 registered PI-C1121/RP-C1121. It flew major domestic points starting from Cebu then Bacolod before it went to Davao. The next BAC 1-11 flew on September 16, 1966 (SN 92, PI-C1131).

Vickers Armstrong and Hunting Aircraft Company becomes British Aircraft Company(BAC) so the name BAC-111. By 1965, the Vickers plane officially became BAC. In 1977, it morphed again to become British Aerospace then morphed again to become part of AĆ©rospatiale-BAC which produced the Concorde, the precursor of the Airbus consortium.

Concorde was offered to Philippine Airlines in 1971. It first appeared on Philippine Skies for sale and demonstration tour. It went to 14 airports in 12 countries. The Concorde plane was in Manila 10 June of 1972. It arrived in the afternoon from Singapore and stayed in Manila over night. It flew the next day before 9am to Tokyo. PAL evaluated its potential for US flights and Europe flights. The Oil crisis of 1973 took a toll from 4 possible PAL orders. PAL instead ordered the economically feasible DC-10.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos revived interest on the Concorde in 1976 after the airline was brought to back to government control. He suggested operating lease in favor of re-nationalized Philippine airlines. BAC wanted a sale for two. Marcos agreed if the British government would allow PAL to have landing rights at Heathrow. But its feud with Malaysia, its former colony, hampered the deal. The deal was eventually abandoned. Marcos made massive orders to Boeing in the face of the British refusal to let him enter Heathrow. Learning the Concorde lessons, UK finally agreed upon France prodding to let PAL in when Airbus 300B4 was offered.

Philippine Airlines first European made plane is the Vickers Viscount 784 replacing the Douglas built DC-4.

The Philippines first official passenger jet is the BAC1-11 which it owned followed by DC-8 Douglas Corporation now Boeing. It operated the latter on operating lease while the former is operated through finance lease.

Its first Boeing connection was the lone wet lease Boeing 707 before it was replaced by DC-8. DC-8 was replaced by DC-10 and subsequently the B747.

PAL officially owned a Boeing plane when it ordered the 727 and the 747-200 which was delivered to them in 1979.

BAC1-11 at Manila Domestic Airport. Philippine Airlines operated 8 frames of the prototype in 1985.

BAC1-11 served the Philippines for more than 25 years before it was replaced by Boeing 737's in 1992. However, only 3 planes were bought as the rest were operating leases from a Dublin Based Aircraft lessor. You must have noticed the EI-CVO, EI-CVN etc.. registries. Because in 1992 Airbus started courting PAL to get the first generation 320 instead. It succeeded ordering 12 with first delivery starting 1996 (RP-C2021) but managed to get hold only of 4 frames because of the 1997 financial crisis leading to its knees in 1999.

Boeing, at the same time lobbied for its 737, 767, and 777 as PAL ordered already 8 new 744 and 4 leases. Airbus managed to show more tricks on its sleeves by giving more value for money other than the cost of its planes. 

PAL ended up ordering 8 330 with 4 leases and 4 340 with 4 more leases. In 2000, it managed to get 4 320, 8 330, and 4 340. All wide-body orders were completely delivered. PAL on the other hand took only 4 744s. 

For Airbus leniency during its trying times when it deferred the 8 320 orders, it pulled 6 more 320 orders totaling 15, excluding operating leases. Boeing on the other hand pushed them to the wall.

Although on its own, the Airbus economics proved to be better off for PAL's operation than its Boeing counterpart as shown 10 years later, starting with the 767 and the 777. 

It was not after Boeing introduced the 777-300ER series that its fortune started to reverse in 2000. World Orders were later converted to the next gen 777 series. It took PAL six years to order the the Boeing 777-300ER plane because of its rehabilitation and settlement with Boeing, although it manifested to acquire it as early as 2004 converting the remaining order for four B747-400 to the B777-300ERs. 

Beneath John Leahy's smile is a future deal worth more than a billion dollars
and Jaime Bautista is not talking.
The next big thing could come with the XWB
At that time, Airbus marketing crews managed to bring its magic trick to convince PAL to buy the Airbus 346-300. Had it not for the remaining 4 undelivered 747 deposit which would be forfeited in Boeing's favor if its not taken, PAL would have 5 346 and 3 leases. That would proved a blessing in disguise for PAL.

After intense negotiation, Boeing agreed to convert PAL's remaining 744 orders to the 777-300ERs. But Airbus did not stopped there despite the 346 setback. Its starting again a conscious courtship ritual to enable the Tan led airline to consider the Queen of the skies and Mr. Tan is very pleased with the offer.

In sum, all can be told that Airbus is one step always ahead of Boeing.

RP, Qatar sign air-services pact

Written by Lenie Lectura
Business Mirror
Thursday, 15 January 2009

THE Philippines and Qatar amended their air-services agreement (ASA) on Wednesday night, adding three more flight entitlements servicing the Doha-Manila route. 

On the first day of the two-day air talks held at the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) office, air panels agreed to augment the weekly flights to a total of eight from the current five for the Doha-Manila route. 

Flights servicing the Doha-Cebu route also increased to 14 from three weekly. Likewise, the Doha-Clark route got an increase in flight frequencies from three flights per week to 14.
The RP-Qatar bilateral ASA is the first air pact sealed for 2009. 

“The increase in flight entitlements is for both countries per week. We are glad of the results; a proof that our relationship with Qatar is growing. There is a need to increase the [flight] frequencies to serve our Filipino workers,” said CAB Deputy Director Porvenir Porciuncula in an interview. 

The number of estimated Filipino workers in Qatar had reached 150,000 as of last year. 

Later this month, the Philippine air panel will hold similar negotiations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), said Porciuncula. 

“The air talks with the UAE will be on January 28 and 29. After that we are looking at meetings with Kuwait and Brunei,” said the CAB official. 

“The scheduled meetings for this year are mostly focused on the countries that were not part of last year’s discussions,” added Porciuncula. 

In 2007, the country’s air panel clinched agreements with Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Macau, Canada, Finland, Cambodia, Iran and the Netherlands. 

Philippine carriers are reportedly not keen on increasing flight entitlements in the Middle East, said Porciuncula. 

“While Qatar wants more access, our carriers do not want to even launch flights anywhere in the Middle East because of very stiff market competition. The Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific do not have immediate plans to mount flights there,” he said. 

The Philippine air panel is composed of officials from the Departments of Transportation and Communications, Foreign Affairs, Tourism, and Trade and Industry, and CAB. Airline representatives include the Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.

5J to increase domestic frequencies by 17%

11 Additional flights from Manila-hub to be launch

Low Cost Carrier Cebu Pacific (CEB), the Philippines' leading domestic airline, will mount additional frequencies to 11 of its domestic routes despite the weak economic forecast for the country.

By March this year, just in time for summer, the airline will increase its frequency from Manila to:

· Bacolod, to four times daily;
· Butuan, to twice daily;
· Cagayan de Oro, to five times daily;
· Caticlan, to 10 times daily;
· Cebu, to 11 times daily;
· Davao, to six times daily;
· Iloilo, to 31 times weekly;
· GenSan, to 10 times weekly;
· Legaspi, to thrice daily;
· Tagbilaran, to thrice daily; and
· Zamboanga, to twice daily.

This brings CEB's weekly domestic flights from 1,074 to 1,252.

Candice Iyog, CEB VP for marketing and distribution, said that the airline is expecting three more aircraft this January and February. "These brand new aircraft -- two Airbus and one ATR-72 500 -- will be utilized to expand our growing domestic network."

Iyog added, "In spite of the economic downturn, we remain optimistic that we will be able to continue stimulating domestic travel because of the value proposition CEB offers to the traveling public."

CEB carried a record breaking 683,204 passengers in December 2008, the highest in the airline's history. Prior to this, CEB carried the most number of passengers in May 2008 at 630,924.

CEB has also positioned itself as a viable transport alternative to buses and ferries.

"Aside from additional frequencies, Cebu Pacific will continue to offer its trademark low fares and new aircraft to its passengers," Iyog added.

CEB currently services the most number of domestic routes, among all local carriers. Its additional aircraft will increase its fleet to 21 Airbus and seven ATR-72 500.

Zest undershots Caticlan as it attempts to land in bad weather

Zest Air MA-60 sit its belly at Caticlan after a hard landing

MALAY, AKLAN — A small passenger plane serving the resort island of Boracay missed the runway on landing yesterday, leaving at least two passengers seriously injured, officials said.

Hospitals in the town of Malay and nearby Kalibo city treated the Zest Airways plane’s 24 passengers and five crew for various injuries after the plane made the hard landing and smashed into a concrete wall.

Two of the passengers had sustained serious fractures and cuts, officials in Malay said. The rest were treated for minor injuries and discharged.

The nationalities of those seriously injured could not be immediately determined.

The Chinese-made MA60 turboprop was flying in holidaymakers from Manila on their way to Boracay, airport officials said.

The cause of the crash, which caused the closure of the airport, the country’s second busiest after Manila, was not immediately known.

A Canadian passenger who asked not to be named told AFP the pilot appeared to have misjudged the landing due to heavy winds.

The plane landed on the grass, well short of the runway. Its left wing ploughed into a ditch, preventing the plane from hitting the airport terminal, witnesses said.

The plane instead smashed into an airport wall, narrowly missing the airport restaurant, an AFP photographer on the scene said.

"The wind was just too strong, especially during this time of the year," said Alfred M. Yao, chairman of Zest Airways.

"But everything is fine. Most of the passengers suffered only slight injuries," he said.

Mr. Yao, who also owns juice maker Zest-O Corp., said the airline would shoulder the injured passengers’ hospital expenses. "We’ll also attend to the passengers personally," he said.

Meanwhile, Avelino L. Zapanta, president and chief executive officer of South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR), another frequent service provider to the island resort, said in a statement: "The aircraft that had an accident in Caticlan [Boracay] is Zest Airways. SEAIR is shifting all its nine flights to Kalibo today due to the closure of Caticlan." AFP

CAB set air talks with Mideast and Europe in 2009

Business Mirror

Written by Lenie Lectura

THE Philippine air panel is arranging a number of meetings with representatives of various countries, mostly in the Middle East and Europe, within the year in the hope of sealing more air agreements.

First on the list is Qatar. The air panels from both countries are scheduled to meet on January 14 and 15 at the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) office.

“We already have an existing air agreement with Qatar, but [it] would want to have more flights to the Philippines. Qatar recently promised to provide jobs to Filipinos,” said CAB Deputy Executive Director Porvenir Porciuncula in a phone interview.

Philippine carriers, however, are not keen on acceding to Qatar’s request.

“While Qatar wants more access, our carriers do not want to even launch flights anywhere in the Middle East because of very stiff market competition. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific do not have immediate plans to mount flights there. Instead, they want to deploy their new planes in lucrative routes,” said Porciuncula.

There are 11 flight frequencies a week under the existing air services agreement (ASA) between Qatar and Manila.

“We have not received Qatar’s proposal yet so we do not know how many they would like to add,” added the CAB official.

Spirit of Manila is the only local airline mounting flights to the Middle East from the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in the Clark Special Economic Zone.

“Right now, it is the only Philippine carrier granted rights to fly there. They will surely ask for entitlements,” said Porciuncula.

Passenger traffic at the DMIA was expected to grow to 2 million by end of 2008 from 533,000 in 2007.

After Qatar, the Philippine air panel has scheduled a meeting with its counterpart in the United Arab of Emirates by the end of the month, followed by a discussion with Kuwait in February and with Brunei in March.

“The impending air talks are mostly focused on Middle Eastern countries because these were the countries which have not been part of last year’s discussions. We want to reach the countries where we have no presence yet,” added Porciuncula.

The Philippine air panel is composed of officials from the Departments of Transportation and Communications, Foreign Affairs, Tourism and Trade and Industry, CAB and representatives from the airline companies.

After the Middle East, the panel will explore the holding of air talks with European countries in the second or third quarter of the year. The CAB is hoping it can successfully seal more ASAs this year compared with that of last year.

“Of course, we would want more agreements signed this year. Most [ASAs] are only amended but we also have plans to seal new agreements, particularly with Turkey, Libya and Peru this year,” added Porciuncula.

In 2007, the country’s air panel clinched agreements with Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Macau, Canada, Finland, Cambodia, Iran and the Netherlands.

SEAIR Open its doors to Foreign Investments

Seair on the lookout for strategic partners

Business Mirror
by Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo

LEISURE carrier Southeast Asian Airlines Inc. (Seair) is seeking strategic partners to help push the carrier’s expansion, according to an airline official.

This developed as the carrier recorded a drop in the number of passengers last year, owing to stiffer competition in the Caticlan (Boracay) route.

Latest data from Seair showed that from January to November 2008, the airline carried 211,366 passengers, down 11.5 percent from the 238,804 recorded in the same period in 2007.

Avelino Zapanta, president of Seair, told the BusinessMirror the entry of major carriers Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific into the Caticlan market pulled away some passengers from Seair. “About 80 percent of our operations was in Caticlan, and that was where the two airlines entered carrying so much capacity. So they were able to capture some of our market.” Caticlan in Aklan, the gateway to the resort island of Boracay, had long been dominated by Seair and the former Asian Spirit (now Zest Airways).

Despite the intense rivalry in the local airline business, Nikos Gitsis, cofounder of Seair, said with its congressional franchise, the carrier hopes to “further strengthen and grow another 14 plus years by continuing innovative development in aviation and tourism to help push the economic growth of the Philippines.”

On December 27, 2008 the airline finally secured its congressional franchise to operate domestic and international routes from its base in Clarkfield, Pampanga.

Gabriel Claudio, presidential political adviser and head of the presidential legislative liaison office in MalacaƱang, said the congressional franchise, as embodied in Republic Act 9517, “lapsed into law on December 27 [2008.] By practice, franchise bills are just allowed to lapse into law.”

Reacting to the news, Gitsis said: “It [congressional franchise] is a great accomplishment of Mr. [Avelino] Zapanta and the management of Seair at the end of a very challenging year.” Gitsis and pilot Iren Dornier—grandson of Claude Dornier, the famous engineer and pioneering designer of military aircraft for Germany’s Luftwaffe in World War II—own 40 percent of Seair, while the rest of the shares are held by a group of Filipinos led by marketing specialist Tomas Lopez Jr.

Zapanta added that Seair is anticipating growth in its passenger traffic this year because of the expansion in its routes and the arrival of its two brand new Airbus A320-200s leased from Tiger Airways
, a budget carrier based in Singapore. “The arrival of the A320s will boost capacity offering and the number of passengers carried.” The two A320s, scheduled to arrive on March 1, are both 180-seater planes.

On November 28, the airline started flying to Kota Kinabalu. In April 2009, it will begin its runs to Singapore and Macau; in August 2009, to Bangkok and Hong Kong, as well as Cebu and Davao; and in September 2009, possibly Incheon (in South Korea), Kuala Lumpur and Kaohsiung (in China). All new flights will be out of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Pampanga, the carrier’s base of operations.

Under the terms of its congressional franchise and in accordance with provisions in the Philippine Constitution on public utilities, Seair is mandated to offer at least 30 percent of its outstanding capital stock to the public, “within five years from commencement of its operations.”

Asked whether the airline was confident it could pursue the initial public offering of its shares, Gitsis said: “Right now, no airline has been able to go public due to the extraordinary circumstances airlines have faced in the past two years, and the volatility in the markets exasperate the situation further. However, that said, we would be open to exploring the possibilities that could present themselves, including joint ventures or private placements as a first step.”

But he clarified that Seair owners are “not actively exploring a buyout, but are looking for strategic partners.”

Last year, Seair owners were being wooed by Filipino-Chinese businessman Alfredo M. Yao, after he bought out the owners of Asian Spirit. His plan was to merge both carriers, and use the management and marketing expertise of Seair’s key officers. The proposed buyout of Seair fell through in May, however, owing to a general disagreement on the price of the company shares.

Airline industry observers noted that with the congressional franchise, Seair can now command a higher price from any potential buyers.

Joaquin L. Po, an aviation industry analyst and former executive vice president of Asian Spirit, explained that a congressional franchise increases the share value of an airline among its potential buyers because technically, only public utilities with such a franchise are allowed to operate. “Licenses of public utilities without congressional franchises can just summarily canceled by the government. A congressional franchise affords an airline protection, and its license to operate can only be cancelled if it violates conditions of said franchise. So this gives a certain comfort level for any interested investors of that airline.”

Republic Act 9517, which grants Seair the “franchise to establish, operate and maintain domestic and international air transport services, with Clarkfield, Pampanga as its base,” was based on House Bill 3788 co-authored by Reps. Eleajandro Jesus Madrona, Ferjenel Biron, Teodoro L. Locsin Jr., et al, which was approved by the House of Representatives, and later, by the Senate.

The congressional franchise also gives the airline government tax incentives such as duty-free importation of capital equipment and income tax holidays. The congressional franchise has a term of 25 years. (With Mia Gonzalez)

Behind PR 1 Arroyo is not always the boss

President Arroyo doesn’t always get her own way!

Manila - IT is common knowledge that President Gloria Arroyo is a tough, hands-on operator who by sheer force of personality (and conviction, of course!) always manages to get everyone around her to her way of thinking. And the long and seemingly tireless hours she puts into the job is legendary—as is her temper when anyone in her official family or presidential staff is found to be amiss in their duty.

But on a recent flight between Manila and Los Angeles, when she was en route to her state visit to Peru, President Arroyo discovered that she doesn’t always get her own way—as we too found out during a pre-Holiday Season soiree, were we happened to be seated at the dinner table with someone who had been on that flight as part of the crew.

Apparently when Presidents husband Mike Arroyo fell ill on board the aircraft a few hours out of Manila, the cockpit crew had to make a quick decision to reroute the flight to get Presidents husband on the ground so he could be dispatched speedily to hospital.

The pilot decided to turn back and head to Osaka Airport in Japan, which was within about three hours flying time. But President Arroyo insisted they fly on and land in Hawaii where her husband could receive the necessary treatment in the USA. And she could spend more time with him there while still keeping to her onward schedule.

But the Philippine Airlines pilot, being the commander-in-chief some 30,000 feet up in the air, overruled the Commander-in-Chief of the Philippines and decided to head for Osaka and land in Japan rather than the President’s preferred landing on American soil. - Manila Times

PAL to fly 777 morning flights to West Coast

PAL targets Northwest breakfast

Victor C. Agustin
Manila Times

Manila - After decades of conceding the morning market, the Philippine Airlines is now keen to take a bite of the long-uncontested territory of Northwest Airlines.

No less than PAL president Jaime Bautista has confirmed the flag carrier’s plan to launch a new daily non-stop service to the US West Coast that leaves Manila in the morning, just like the two Northwest flights.

The morning flight is expected to be launched by the fourth quarter, when PAL shall have taken delivery of the first of the two Boeing 777s, Bautista said.

But the new service, to complement the two evening flights to the West Coast that PAL now currently operates, would still have to depend on the US Federal Aviation Administration’s returning the Philippine civil aviation system to the so-called Category 1 status.

“We may be unable to use these new planes on our flights to the United States, and the cost advantage offered by the aircraft may only be realized by implementing our alternative plan for the deployment of the aircraft,” Bautista told PAL shareholders in late September.

Top Airports of the Philippines



Airport Code

Airport Name

Total Number of Passengers

















































































Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines; Airport, Passenger and Cargo Database.
Copyright © 2008 Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.


International Airports:
Airports with border control facility and other services used for International flights

Principal Airports:
Airports used for domestic scheduled flights (or domestic airports served by carriers certified under AO No. 121)

.......... Class 1: Airports used for Jet services (Jet aircraft including B737, A320, DC9 or greater, which has equal to or more than 100-seat capacity)

.......... Class 2: Airports used for Prop services (Prop aircraft or jet aircraft smaller than those indicated in Class 1, which has equal to or more than 19-seat capacity)

.......... Class 3: Community Airports used for General Aviation and Prop services, (Prop aircraft which has less than 19 seat capacity)

In 1986, there were 230 airports in the Philippines. In 2006, 172 remained.
Source:Philippine Statistical Yearbook, 2006