Australia agrees 6,000 new seats for the Philippines

Jetstar ready to meet Cebu Pacific

Canberra, Australia - Australian regulators agreed to expand its bilateral air service agreement with the Philippines allowing 6,000 a week passengers from 2,500 per week which is more than twice as many as that approved in 1996. Australia and the Philippines has its first bilateral in 1947.

Transport and Communications Secretary Doroteo Reyes II said that the draft air services agreement was signed by Philippine and Australian transportation officials on March 13. The agreement, he said, updated the deal originally signed in 1996.

According to Civil Aeronautics Board Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla, the new deal allows the government to distribute the 6,000 seats among airports in Manila and Clark, Pampanga to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.

"The 6,000 is the total allocation for Manila and Clark combined. We can set how many airline passenger seats each airport will get. But the cargo tonnage was set. It's 300 tons for Manila and 1,300 tons for Clark," Arcilla said. The new agreement can accommodate 2 daily B747 on each side or 3 B777/A330, 0r 4 B767, respectively.

Flights between other regional airports in Australia and airports in the Philippines as to capacity or frequency remains unrestricted. Philippine Airlines and Qantas has rights to fly Darwin and Davao in the previous bilateral but remained unserved.

In the agreement, local airlines were also given fifth freedom traffic rights, with right to pick up passengers in Australia before flying to another destination in another country particularly New Zealand, except Singapore and the United States. Philippine Airlines intends to use Sydney and Melbourne for its new flight to New Zealand under the new bilateral.

Australian carriers can pick up passengers from the Philippines en route to Port Moresby and another point, but the final destination must be any of the following: Hong Kong, Japan, India, Bahrain, Iran, Greece, Austria, France, the United Kingdom, and two additional points to be nominated, except the US, Canada and China. Flights going to Japan, however, were restricted to 2,500 seats each per week.

Qantas on the other hand is interested to commence another kangaroo route from London to Sydney alternate days Melbourne via Manila. The airlines kangaroo route currently fly to Singapore, Bangkok, and Hong-Kong. The Philippine government used to close access to Hong-Kong and London in the previous bilateral. Qantas is also reviving its plan to fly to Paris via Manila. Currently, there is no airline in Manila that flies to Paris after the Air France-KLM merger in 2004, and London after British Airways suspended flight in 2001.

With the additional seats, Arcilla said more airlines will be given an opportunity to fly to Australia. In the previous arrangement, only the Philippine Airlines was the designated carrier for the said route. Currently, both Philippine Airlines and Qantas held 2,500 seats from points in Manila to Sydney, and Melbourne. Philippine Airlines has yet to resumed its service to Brisbane while its negotiating for access to Perth.

"Cebu Pacific and Zest Air are interested (in getting entitlements)," he said, adding that foreign carrier Jetstar has also expressed interest in mounting Philippine flights to Australia. Jetstar subsidiary, Jetstar Asia flies Manila and Singapore daily with connections to Darwin.

"We welcome the developments in the recent RP-Australia air talks. We are always looking for new destinations that we can include in our route network expansion," Candice A. Iyog, vice-president for marketing of the Gokongwei-led Cebu Pacific, said.

Both Cebu Pacific, which is negotiating a Boeing 777, and Zest Airways which is also negotiating for Boeing 767 manifested its intent to fly wide-body aircraft if their application to fly to Australia is approved.

Australia is one of the top sources of tourists in the Philippines. Successful air talks are helpful in boosting the economy as it paves the way for more tourists and investments in the country.

The Philippine negotiating panel, led by Transportation and Communication Undersecretary Doroteo A. Reyes II, included representatives from the departments of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry, and Tourism, as well as the Civil Aeronautics Board and airport authorities.

The Australian air panel, meanwhile, was headed by Iaian Lumsden, director of the bilateral aviation and airports division of Australia’s Department of Transport and Regional Services.

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