EU explains ban on RP carriers

Despite good reviews for PR and 5J

By Cynthia Balana
April 1, 2010

Manila —The European Commission has recognized the measures taken by Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific to ensure the safety of their operations but these were not enough to lift the ban on all Philippine carriers from entering the European airspace which will take effect Thursday.

Ambassador Alistair MacDonald, head of the EC delegation to the Philippines, said in a statement on Wednesday that the EC was ready to support the efforts and examine any progress in the implementation of corrective actions and compliance with international safety standards by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

This support, said MacDonald, could include an expert visit to review the safety performance of the major operators and the oversight exercised by the CAAP, before a reconsideration of the ban in the future.

In announcing the ban during its meeting in Brussels, Belgium on Tuesday, the EC said the immediate concrete actions taken by the new CAAP management led by Director-General Alfonso Cusi demonstrated the willingness of the Philippines to address quickly safety deficiencies, and to pave the way for their successful resolution without delay.

However, the EC went on to implement the ban “in view of the Significant Safety Concern identified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in relation to the supervisory authority and pending the implementation of adequate corrective actions, including those drawn up in response to our concerns in 2008 but not yet implemented.”

The decision followed on the ICAO announcement in October 2009 of a Significant Safety Concern relating to the oversight functions carried out by the CAAP, and on the earlier downgrading of the Philippines' safety rating by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

MacDonald said the EC ban reflected the unanimous opinion of the EU's Air Safety Committee at its meeting in Brussels on March 17-19. This Committee brought together air-safety experts from all 27 EU member-states, as well as from Iceland, Norway and Switzerland , EASA and Eurocontrol.

“The EC has been in discussion on these matters with the CAAP since April 2008, and acknowledges the recent efforts launched by the CAAP to reform the civil aviation system in the Philippines and the steps undertaken to address the safety deficiencies reported by FAA and ICAO,” MacDonald said.

Cusi took part in Brussels meeting last month, and was able to inform the EC of the steps he had taken since his appointment to redress the safety performance of the Philippines.

With Cusi in the meeting were senior representatives of Cebu Pacific and of Philippine Airlines who also briefed the EC on their own measures to enhance safety.

CAAP Maintains RP Aviation Safe

Expedites compliance

March 31, 2010

Manila - The Philippines civil aviation authority admitted its oversight deficiency Tuesday but defended its position that the country's safety standards adopted by its airlines are at par with the rest of the world after the European Union imposed a ban of all local airlines against flying to European Union airspace.

"Even if the Philippines is listed by the EU, it does not mean that Philippine aircraft are unsafe," Alfonso Cusi, Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAAP) said.

"Our aircraft meet the international standards in safety. It's a matter of adopting the internationally accepted audit procedures" says Cusi.

"We are complying their demands, but results cannot be achieved overnight. I have invited the EU Safety Aviation Commission to come here to the Philippines for a re-inspection this May to show that we have corrected the problem that they have raised," Cusi adds.

Cusi said steps have been taken to address those safety concerns and he was "disappointed" that EU authorities had not checked on those steps before announcing the ban.

The Philippines civil aviation authority said last week that it is hiring nearly 50 aviation safety experts to improve surveillance and inspection of air operators and threatens to ground small domestic air operations not certified by December 2010, if only to address the issues raised by international regulators, which concerns date back to 2007 when the FAA first issued warning to the government.

Other measures taken by the authority includes strict compliance with post-audit certification, immediate hiring of qualified technical personnel for the flight standards inspectorate service, and heightened surveillance inspection of air operators conducting international flights.

But an official from Philippine Airlines who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said there was more to the problems that meets the eye saying other concerns dealt with the training of aviation safety inspectors and a lack of an adequate number of aviation safety personnel.

The European Commission acknowledged recent efforts by Philippine regulators and by two carriers — Philippine Airlines and Cebu Airlines — to improve safety standards. But the commission said it would forbid those airlines and 45 others from flying into the 27-country bloc as a precaution until its remaining concerns could be addressed.

According to EU ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald, the real concern of the European Union is the quality of the certification process supervised by the country’s regulatory agency. The Commission considers that the supervisory authority is currently not able to implement and enforce the relevant safety standards, and decided therefore to ban from EU airspace all air carriers licensed in the Philippines until these deficiencies are corrected.

The Brussels based aviation counterpart was however prepared to send a delegation of safety experts to visit the country in May to examine any information demonstrating progress in the implementation of corrective actions and compliance with international safety standards in the hope of lifting the ban.

“We are ready to support countries that need to build up technical and administrative capacity to guarantee the necessary standards in civil aviation,” the European transport commissioner, Siim Kallas, said in a statement.

“But we cannot accept that airlines fly into the E.U. if they do not fully comply with international safety standards.”

The new measures go into effect Thursday, said Helen Kearns, a spokeswoman for the transport commission.

The Philippines does not currently have any airlines serving destinations in the European Union. Philippine Airlines ceased flying to Europe in 1998. But under the terms of the ban, all European travel agencies will be obliged to inform customers if they plan to travel on a blacklisted carrier.

"That is the reason why we objected to the ban because clearly the deficiency was with the government regulators, not us!" says official from PAL, who argued further that they (airlines) became the victim of the government's incompetency and political machinations to what is supposed to be an independent aviation body.

The ban would in effect require European travelers who have booked a seat earlier on a blacklisted carrier have the right to have their reservation changed to another airline or to have their airfare reimbursed.

The European ban on Philippine carriers followed a downgrading by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to category 2 from category 1 on safety concerns made in November 2007 and safety audit from Montreal-based world aviation governing body ICAO made in September 2009.

EU Bans RP Airlines

Commission updates list of airlines banned
from the European airspace

March 30, 2010

Brussels - The European Commission has adopted today the thirteenth update of the Community’s list of airlines banned in the European Union to include all air carriers of two additional countries: Sudan and the Philippines, on the basis of safety assessments by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). With this update, restrictions placed on Air Koryo from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and TAAG from Angola are partially lifted under certain conditions, while the operations of Iran Air will be restricted.

Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for Transport, said: "Safety comes first. We are ready to support countries that need to build up technical and administrative capacity to guarantee the necessary standards in civil aviation. But we cannot accept that airlines fly into the EU if they do not fully comply with international safety standards."

With this update, the Air Koryo licensed in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, subject to an operating ban since March 2006, is allowed to resume operations into the EU with two aircraft which are fitted with the necessary equipment to comply with mandatory international standards and following appropriate oversight by its authority. The rest of its fleet remains barred from operating into the EU.

The Commission recognises the improvements in the operations of TAAG Angola Airlines by allowing the air carrier to operate under certain strict conditions with specific aircraft to all destinations in the EU, not only to Lisbon.

The civil aviation authority of Angola is urged to intensify its oversight in relation to all carriers and continue the recertification of the other Angolan air carriers which remain banned from operating into the EU.

The Commission imposes an operating ban on all operations of Sudanese air carriers, due to a poor safety performance of the civil aviation authority of Sudan resulting from persistent non-compliance with international standards in the area of oversight.

The Commission acknowledges the recent efforts launched by the competent authorities to reform the civil aviation system in the Philippines and steps taken to address safety deficiencies reported by the FAA and ICAO and measures taken by two carriers – Philippines Airlines and Cebu Airlines – to ensure safety of operations. It is ready to support the Philippines to overcome serious safety deficiencies.

In view of the significant safety concerns identified by ICAO in relation to the authorities, the Commission with the unanimous support of the Air Safety Committee is forced to follow the principle of precaution and impose an operating ban on all air carriers licensed in the Philippines. The Commission is ready to support the Philippine authorities and conduct a visit to the country.

Following an examination of the safety of Iran Air's operations into the EU through ramp checks of its aircraft in the Community, evidence of serious incidents and accidents suffered by the carrier and insufficient oversight from the authority over the past year, the Air Safety Committee concluded unanimously that the operations of Iran Air to the EU should be restricted. The carrier will only be allowed to use certain aircraft for flights to Europe. The Commission will visit Iran over the next months to verify the oversight of the Iranian civil aviation organisation and the safety situation of Iran Air.

The results of a recent visit by the European Aviation Safety Agency to Albania indicate that the competent authority needs to strengthen its capabilities to ensure the oversight of the air carriers it licences. The authorities have been urged by the Commission to take prompt action to address these issues. The Commission will closely monitor the situation.

The Commission follows closely the performance of Egyptian air carriers. A visit to Egypt to verify the oversight functions of the civil aviation authority and the performance of certain air carriers showed that this authority is carrying out its responsibilities correctly. The Commission will continue to cooperate closely with this authority to ensure that proposed improvements can be implemented.

Today, the Community’s list has three carriers whose operations are fully banned in the European Union – Ariana Afghan Airlines from Afghanistan, Siem reap Airways International from Cambodia and Silverback Cargo Freighters from Rwanda.

All carriers from 17 countries – 278 companies in total – are banned: Angola, Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, (with the exception of three carriers which operate under restrictions and conditions), Indonesia, Kazakhstan (with the exception of one carrier which operates under restrictions and conditions), the Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Philippines, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe, Sudan, Swaziland and Zambia. 10 air carriers are allowed to operate under restrictions and conditions - Air Koryo from the Democratic People Republic of Korea, TAAG Angola Airlines, Air Astana from Kazakhstan, Iran Air from Iran Gabon Airlines, Afrijet and SN2AG from Gabon, Air Bangladesh, Air Service Comores and Ukrainian Mediterranean Airlines from Ukraine. Europa Pressroom

Pacific Flier Readies Take-Off

Launches Flight on March 30

March 28, 2010

Clark- Palau's newly designated national airline, Pacific Flier announced recently that it is ready to take off on March 30 for Koror, the islands' capital.

Shane Styles, the airline’s marketing chief said the airline is offering a special promotional rate of $339 round trip fare for the first three flights. The regular airfare is pegged at $399.

“A long time in the planning and making, PacificFlier has been able to inaugurate a schedule of charter services with the full backing of the government of the Republic of Palau. PacificFlier wants to acknowledge its appreciation for the support it has received from the Government of The Republic of Palau,” said Styles in a statement.

"The airline is also offering connections to Brisbane in Australia via Koror and additional services to Guam will start in May" adds Styles.

For the inaugural Brisbane flight on March 31, the airfare is $399. For the April 11 flight, the airline is offering an airfare of $499 and after that the regular price will be at $599.

Pacific Flier Airline is supposed to start flight on January 15, however Federak Aviation Administration (FAA) failed to grant the airline an air carrier’s permit due to ownership issues.

The airline uses an Airbus A310 aircraft for its fleet, with registry CS-TEI, and has 18 business and 176 economy passenger seats.

Pacific Flier also offers its passengers living in Manila free shuttle bus service to and from the airport. Two check-in baggage, weighing 70 lbs. each are also allowed by the airline for each passenger.

The airline departs every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday from Palau to Manila Clark at 7:00 AM with arrivals at 10:35AM for a travel time of 2 hours and 30 minutes. Schedule for departures from Manila-Clark is every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday leaving at 5:40PM arriving Koror at 7:10PM Local time.

The plane will then leave for Brisbane in Australia at 11:45PM with arrival the following day at 4:50AM. It will then fly back to Koror before proceeding to Manila in that rotation.

San Fernando Airport Re-opens to Commercial traffic

SEAIR to fly April 14
by Julito G. Rada

March 27, 2010

The San Fernando Airport in La Union will resume domestic operations on April 14, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority said Thursday.

The airport has just completed a P500 million upgrading financed by the Poro Point Management Corp., a BCDA subsidiary.

For its inaugural flight using the newly refurbished airport, South East Asian Air flight DG0205 will leave the Manila Domestic Airport at 11:40 a.m. and is expected to arrive at the San Fernando Airport at 12:40 p.m. This would officially signal the resumption of domestic operations after the airport was closed in December 2007 to give way to the upgrading.

BCDA president and chief executive retired Gen. Narciso Abaya said that with the airport resuming operations, Poro Point becomes more attractive to investors and tourists.

“Increased investments and tourist spending will augur well for the economy of La Union,” he said.

PPMC president Felix Racadio said the upgrading project included the hill removal and leveling, runway widening, overlay of taxiway, fencing, construction of a new control tower, renovation of fire station, and excavation of ditches and channels.

“The upgrade meets the International Civil Aviation Organization standards and will now accommodate larger planes like the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320,” Racadio said.

For his part, PPMC executive vice president Anthony Manguiat said with the resumption of domestic operations, passenger as well as cargo traffic are expected to further increase and boost the economy of La Union and its neighboring provinces.

“The San Fernando Airport will complement the already existing international seaport, thus making Poro Point an ideal site for commerce and tourism,” Maguiat said.

PPMC vice president for airport operations Josefa Catherine Bada said the regular flights from Manila to San Fernando and back will be serviced by SEAIR every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The Manila-San Fernando flight takes some 60 minutes and passengers can now book online through www.flyseair.

She also said there are now 27 flying schools using the airport for their cross-country flights.

Meanwhile, Thunderbird Pilipinas Hotels and Resorts Inc. chief operating officer Fabio Moretti said the resumption of flights will bode well for the tourism industry in La Union, Baguio, Pangasinan and Ilocos. Of the P565 million allocated by the BCDA for the upgrade of the San Fernando Airport, TPHRI contributed P55 million.

Philippine Aviation Data 2009

January- December 2009
1 Philippine Airlines PR 3,382,148
2 Cebu Pacific 5J 1,622,509
3 Cathay Pacific CX 1,281,927
4 Singapore Airlines SQ 571,151
5 Asiana Airlines OZ 524,220
6 Northwest Airlines NW 474,832
7 Emirates Airlines EK 446,311
8 Qatar Airways
QR 000,00
9 Korean Airlines KE 377,241
10 Japan Airlines JO 365,196

January- December 2009
1 Cebu Pacific 5J 7,234,162
2 Philippine Airlines PR 6,047,045
3 Zest Airways Z2 872,223
4 Air Philippines
2P 408,863
5 Seair DG 184,145

Source: Civil Aeronautics Board
DOTC, Republic of the Philippines
notes: Data with zero entries are still being updated.

March 26, 2010

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) reported that international passenger traffic rose by 2.7 percent to 12.32 million in 2009, from 12 million a year earlier. International traffic grew on the last quarter of the year propelling the record to register positive growth for the Philippines.

There were more outgoing than incoming traffic. Of the total, the CAB recorded 6,069,170 incoming passengers and 6,253,870 outgoing passengers during the 12-month period.

PAL heads the list with 3,382,148 international passengers down 3.613 million international recorded by the airline in 2008. The flag carrier’s incoming passenger traffic stood at 1,658,403, while outgoing passengers reached 1, 723,745.

Cebu Pacific registered positive growth after they carried 1,622,509 international passengers, higher than the 1.320 million it carried last year, owing to additional frequencies in Hong Kong and Singapore during the period.

LCC Wars has Began

Air Philippines joins fruit bandwagon
for LCC Supremacy

March 22, 2010

In a counter-offensive mode to regain market dominance, Philippine Airlines low cost subsidiary, Air Philippines is expected to relaunch jet service this month branding a new orange look and a newer airbus jet to seriously compete with top budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air and fast growing Zest Airways in the low cost market.

“We shall give our competitor a hard time” says David Lim, Air Philippines newly appointed President who replaced Capt. Edilberto Medina for the post.

Air Philippines earlier announced a new management team appointed to implement the airline’s new business model using a leaner workforce.

The airline's jet incorporates an orange livery, a marketing strategy indicating its no-frills service, from a color choice made famous by Europe's first Low Cost Carrier, Easyjet.

The first to incorporate orange underlinings is Cebu Pacific, with its distinct yellow smile introduced in 2005. Next is Zest Air, the erstwhile Asian Spirit airline that changed its color in 2008 to be more representative of its new owner, also famous for marketing the orange drink. Now, Air Philippines wants a piece of the 18 million domestic and growing market now ruled by Cebu Pacific with more than 9 million passengers carried.

Air Philippines "Express" brand will start operating on March 28 using Airbus A320 jets leased from Philippine Airlines which the latter ordered in 1992.

“Air Philippines would have its own brand called Air Philippines Express just like Philippine Airlines have PAL Express,” says Lim.

“The Express extension denotes a service being offered by the airline” added the official.

Air Philippines and Philippine Airlines are two separate company owned by the Lucio Tan Group with 99% ownership to the former and 95% to the latter.

Both airlines simplified its LCC flight operations for seamless connection of its passengers, and they are looking to further solidify its market share in the low cost market by launching aggressive pricing and encirclement strategy that could potentially put the minor airlines out of business.

“We are relaunching the airline so it will give a serious competition to Cebu Pacific, Zest Air and Seair,” says PAL Chief Finance Officer and Air Philippines Chief Operating Officer Cesar Chiong.

The airline will fly to Iloilo, Bacolod, Puerto Princesa and Cagayan de Oro on its initial run using two A320's, and progressing to more domestic destinations as it take delivery of four more A320s in the coming months.

“We will start operating the Airbus A320 by the end of March because its the start of the summer season where traditionally we have plenty of passengers.” says Chiong.

“Our plan is to add one A320 in November, and one in December in time for the holiday rush, and two more is expected to be added next year,” the airline executive said.

Another four A320 will also be added to the fleet in the next two years with planes leased from PAL after it retires the old ones on its fleet replacing it with new aircraft ordered from Airbus. PAL is expecting delivery of two more A320s in 2010, and three more planes for delivery in 2011.

“All aircraft will be purchased from PAL on a lease-to-own basis” adds Chiong.

Air Philippines intends to fly back to Hong Kong, Singapore and other regional destinations in the next two year when its domestic network is firmly establish.