RP to sign air accord with Turkey this year

Turkish Airlines ready to fly from Bangkok,
but will Manila open it up?

February 26, 2010

Bangkok – The Philippine skies will soon greet the arrival of Turkish Airlines from Istanbul as the government finally confirmed its readiness to sit down with the Turkish government to discuss the forging of Air Services Agreement (ASA) between the two countries which has been deferred for two years. The ASA seeks to boost the economic cooperation between the two countries.

The Philippines begged off to conclude ASA with Turkey last year because it wanted 5th freedom right traffic between Bangkok and Manila as part of the proposal which Thailand and the Philippines aren't ready to provide because all seat entitlements between intermediary points were already taken.

Thailand and the Philippines will talk later this year to decide on opening more slot as well as discussed PAL's seat entitlement to India before forging agreements with Turkey. Istanbul already expressed their intent to sign the air deal before the end of 2009 but Manila has nothing to give on its request.

Turkish Airlines is aggressively consolidating Bangkok as its regional hub in Asia as it pursues expansion in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Adnan Aykac, Turkish Airlines General Manager for Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia said the "airline's business strategy is to make Bangkok its hub in Asia. Australia already allowed us connection from Bangkok."

The Australian government recently signed its first Air Services Agreement with Turkey. The agreement will allow Turkish Airlines to immediately begin up to five direct flights a week between Australia and Turkey. The agreement also allows the carriers of both countries to enter into code-share arrangements with the airlines of a third country to provide services between Australia and Turkey via intermediate destinations.

Turkish Airlines wants at least three flights a week between Istanbul and Sydney. Qantas too will have the same right but said last week that it had ''no current plans'' to fly to Istanbul via Bangkok.

"The missing link is only the Philippines as the government there is still not ready to talk. Our proposal to the Philippines is the same as those approved by Australia" Aykac added.

While the prospect of Turkish Airlines flying to Australia becomes another irritant for Qantas, Philippine Airlines and Thai Airways International has been campaigning against the grant of fifth freedom access between the two intermediate points because of overcapacity.

The airline is currently courting Thai Airways International as its strategic partner to begin its foray not only in the Australia-New Zealand market but also for the Philippine market.

The airline plans to extend its non-stop flight from Istanbul to Bangkok through to Ho Chi Minh City in October, and possibly Kuala Lumpur and Manila extension before the end of the year at the earliest.

It hopes to increase its Istanbul-Bangkok flights from daily to twice daily later this year if its plan service extension to Australia-New Zealand with Thai pushes through. It also hopes to enter into code share agreements with Philippine Airlines with its Manila flights should its talk with Thai bogged down.

Aykac said negotiations with Thai Airways to form a code-share partnership began about a year ago and had been moving slow as TG does not see any urgency to co-operate.

For Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano, Turkish Airlines arrival to the country would be good for the tourism industry as it will not only attract Turkish tourists, but also brings other foreigners to the country, including Russians and Europeans.

“I’m confident we are getting Russian tourists out of Turkey,” Durano has said stressing that “travel habits in the West are looking towards Asia to travel. Its a good addition to Transaero Airlines which will begin service later this year."

It seems to appear however that the Department of Tourism (DoT) is always singing a different tune with that of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), part of the negotiating group, which also has Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC), Departments of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and representatives from airline companies as its members.

The open skies policy is apparently part of the President's Medium-Term Development Plan for 2004 to 2010 which seeks to promote the country’s tourism industry but local opposition seems to make the policy in reality a close sky.

"While we are hopeful we can strike a deal with them later this year, we do have alternatives to support our growth in Asia. And that includes flying direct." concludes Aykac.

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