Zest Air adds 4 more A320's

May 24, 2011

Zest Airways intends to double capacity this year as it set a P10-billion expansion program to add more flights to its domestic and international routes as well as introduce new ones.

In a briefing Monday, the company said it expected to more than double the number of its passenger base to 3 million from 1.23 million in 2010.

The airline would be adding two new Airbus A320 jets to its fleet by July and two more will be arriving later this year.

The added frames will be use by the airline to add flights to existing routes and to fly to new one.

Zest Air is slated to inaugurate two new flights: the Beijing-Kalibo route starting June 26 and the Cebu-Shanghai route starting July 2. It already offers 12 weekly flights between Incheon in South Korea and Kalibo, Aklan, the country’s gateway to Boracay Island.

The company also flies to Kalibo from Pusan, South Korea, and Shanghai, China. The airline also offers two weekly flights from Kalibo to Pusan and twice weekly from Cebu to Incheon.

Most of its expansion plans will be directed to China, and routes to Taipei, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are also being considered.

Zest Air has a network of 23 destinations. It flies five times daily to Cebu, and thrice daily to Davao and twice daily to Bacolod, Iloilo, Tacloban, Tagbilran and Puerto Princesa. It also has regular flights from Manila to Kalibo, Legazpi, Busuanga, Calbayog, Catarman, Kalibo, Masbate, Marinduque, San Fernando, La Union, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.

Zest Airways has six (6) Airbus jets on its fleet complemented by four (4) Chinese made MA60s.

The company said that by year end Zest Air will have a working fleet of 10 Airbus 320's.

Etihad to fly Double Daily

May 21, 2011

Etihad Airways will fly double daily to the Philippines in the second half of the year as it expects to increase its passenger revenues from the Philippines by 20 percent.

The airline expects to generate from US$24 million last year to $29 million this year, according to Country Manager Roberto A. Hukom. The country accounts for 6 to 8 per cent of the airlines' revenue pie.

“We are looking for other ways to do business here. After all, Manila serves as a gateway to over 300 islands. We are bringing more tourists out of Europe." says Chief Executive Officer James Hogan.

Etihad, now on its fifth year of operations in the Philippines and 7th, worldwide, employs 767 Filipinos, who make up the second largest national group in its workforce. Its Abu Dhabi Head office employs 739 Filipino staff while its outstation offices, 28. The bulk of its Filipino personnel, 540 in all, are women.

At present, overseas Filipino workers comprise the bulk of Etihad’s Philippine market.The airlines' cargo revenues are also substantial. Etihad has code sharing agreement with Philippine Airlines.

RP blocked Tiger Seat Sale

Domestic Jet Flights Grounded

May 19, 2011

MANILA, Philippines— The Philippine Civil Aeronautics Board has ordered Singapore-based low-cost airline Tiger Airways to stop selling seats on its website for flights between Manila and two domestic routes for its local partner South East Asian Airlines, or SEAIR.

The board’s Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla said the order was served Thursday to Tiger Airways pending final action on complaints of local airlines against Tiger Airways and SEAIR for allegedly circumventing traffic rights restrictions through an aircraft lease and marketing agreement.

Tiger Airways had been selling SEAIR flights for July between Manila and central Cebu City, and Manila and southern Davao City through its website.

Arcilla said several airlines filed a joint complaint in November on SEAIR’s aircraft lease deal with Tiger Airways and their agreement allowing Tiger Airways to market on its website SEAIR flights using leased Tiger Airways aircraft.

Hearings on those consolidated cases were completed in April. Arcilla said pending the board’s decision, Tiger started offering the Manila-Cebu and Manila-Davao seats on April 19, eliciting a new flurry of complaints from local airlines.

SEAIR President Avelino Zapanta said it has complied with the board’s order but believes its deal with Tiger Airways is legal.

CAB Issues Cease Order

The Civil Aeronautics Board has issued a cease order on domestic Southeast Asian Airlines flights using jets leased by regional giant Tiger Airways.

The order issued on Wednesday will make way for an investigation to determine whether the partnership between Tiger and SEAir violates the constitutional restriction on “cabotage,” or the ban on foreign firms operating domestic transportation services.

“There are strong indications that there may be a violation on the restriction against cabotage,” CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla said in an interview.

SEAir will be barred from mounting its Manila to Cebu and Manila to Davao flights, using aircraft leased from Tiger, while the cease order is in effect. International flights using the same planes, however, would be allowed to continue.

Last year, SEAir and Tiger Airways, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, announced a partnership wherein the local airline would lease several jets from Tiger, to be used for the expansion of its domestic and international flights.

The SEAir flights would then be marketed and sold through Tiger website, where the latter gets most of its ticket bookings. Tiger later bought a substantial stake in SEAir.

The deal has been criticized by competing local airlines, saying that SEAir was merely acting as a dummy to allow Tiger to access the country’s booming air travel market.

Aviation authorities said on Thursday they have blocked a marketing deal between budget Singapore carrier Tiger Airways and a small local partner in a fight over the booming domestic aviation market.

Caught up in Fight

The Civil Aeronautics Board said the deal between Tiger and South East Asian Airlines (SEAir) broke a law banning foreign carriers from operating domestic routes.

It also ordered SEAir to stop advertising flights between Manila and the major cities of Cebu and Davao that it was due to start flying on July 2.

'A circumvention of the law on cabotage is against public interest and constitutes an unfair business practice that must be nipped in the bud,' the board said in its written order dated May 18.

The writ is temporary but the board is set to make a final ruling shortly on allegations that Tiger and SEAir broke the law, its hearing officer Wyrlou Zamudio told AFP.

The final ruling should be issued at the board's next meeting, Mr Zamudio said, while adding that no specific date has been set for the meeting.

Cebu Air, Air Philippines Express and Philippine Airlines filed separate complaints earlier this month over the SEAir flights that would use Airbus aircraft leased from Tiger, which would also sell seats on its booking systems.

SEAir president Avelino Zapanta told AFP it would comply with the regulators' interim ban, but rejected allegations the arrangement with Tiger was illegal.

'Definitely not. That's what they've been trying to prove and they haven't proved anything,' Mr Zapanta said.

He said the dispute reflected rising competition in the domestic aviation market, where passenger traffic had risen 22 per cent last year.

Should the government eventually rule against SEAir, the company would consider increasing destinations to other Asian routes, Mr Zapanta added.

SEAir now flies to five small provincial airports from Manila and also serves the Boracay beach resort, the Philippines' top tourist draw, from its hubs at Clark airport near Manila and Cebu.

The company also began flying to Singapore from Clark in December, using leased Tiger aircraft. -- AFP

5J Expands Domestic Network

May 19, 2011

Budget airline Cebu Pacific (CEB), is scheduled to increase domestic flight frequencies along growth areas across the country on the last quarter of the year.

The airline is adding as much as 33-percent more seats to compensate for the arrival of three (3) brand new Airbus 320 set for delivery this year, all arriving in October.

Vice president for marketing and distribution Candice Iyog said that with the flight increases, the airline will continue to dominate the industry by having the most flights to popular tourist destinations such as Boracay, Coron, Dumaguete and Cagayan de Oro.

Effective October 1, CEB will increase flight frequencies in the following routes: Manila-Butuan-Manila (2x to 3x daily);
Manila-General Santos-Manila (2x to 3x daily);
Manila-Tacloban-Manila (4x to 5x daily);
Manila-Davao-Manila (from 45x to 49x weekly)  

Effective October 7,
Manila-Davao-Manila (7x to 8x daily);
Manila-Dumaguete-Manila (2x to 3x daily);
Manila-Roxas-Manila (7x to 12x weekly);
Cebu-Butuan-Cebu (7x to 11x weekly);
Manila-Boracay (Caticlan)-Manila (86x to 91x weekly);
Cebu-Dumaguete-Cebu (3x to 7x weekly);
Cebu-Pagadian-Cebu (4x to 7x weekly).

Effective October 14,
Manila-Cagayan de Oro-Manila (6x to 7x daily);
Cebu-Davao-Cebu (24x to 28x weekly);
Manila-Cebu-Manila (80x to 87x weekly);
Manila-Coron (Busuanga)-Manila (2x to 3x daily);
Manila-Boracay (Caticlan)-Manila (13x to 14x daily);
Manila-Naga-Manila (3x to 4x daily).

Upgraded service from an ATR 72-500 to an Airbus A319:
Cebu-Ozamiz-Cebu (Daily);
Manila-Tuguegarao-Manila (Daily);
Cebu-Bacolod-Cebu (Daily);
Cebu-Cagayan de Oro-Cebu (Daily);
Cebu-Iloilo-Cebu (Daily);
Cebu-Tacloban-Cebu (Daily).

Manila ACC Blind

May 2, 2011

By Rainier Allan Ronda

MANILA, Philippines - An air traffic management system installed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), worth P511 million, does not meet international civil aviation standards, according to the results of a technical audit made by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

The audit, presented to the DOTC’s civil aviation officials during a meeting Friday, said the system has at least 20 major deficiencies or “non-conformity” to international aviation standards.

Technical personnel from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Aerodrome and Air Navigation Safety Oversight Office, who conducted the audit, warned DOTC officials that using the new Manila Area Control Center (ACC) may result in a disaster at the country’s major airports.

Two major airlines have alerted the CAAP to two “near-collisions” when the CAAP tested the system and used it to direct air traffic at the NAIA last March, they said.

The NAIA is currently using the old air traffic system, installed in the 1980s. When the old system broke down in 2009, the DOTC set up a $200-million Communications, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) systems for the Philippine airport network, with the Manila ACC as the backup. Neither system is in use.

The CAAP Employees Union (EU) earlier said the Manila ACC project is one of the graft-ridden projects undertaken by the DOTC during the Arroyo administration.

“Our air controllers don’t want to use it because it is not working and is problematic and they don’t want to be responsible if a tragedy occurs in the NAIA or in the other airport when they use it,” a source said.

No safety, error checks

Among the serious deficiencies cited in the audit report is a lack of provisions to make the system “error-tolerant.” The system was never assessed for safety nor was it checked if it met the strict standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the CAAP auditors said.

The CAAP-EU said there were serious irregularities in the project, and money was wasted in funding the Manila ACC, a system found to be unserviceable and lacking in vital “interconnections.”

The CAAP-EU urged the Aquino administration to investigate the original P291-million contract to set up the Manila ACC in 2010. The group said the DOTC allegedly paid for additional revisions that added P220 million to the project cost.

The Aquino administration should scrutinize the contractor that bagged the project, the Revere Construction and Supply-CS Soft, Inc.-Enhanced Electronics Communications Services joint venture, based in San, Juan, Batangas, the CAAP-EU said.

The workers said the DOTC, at the time of the bidding for the project, was headed by Secretary Leandro Mendoza, a resident of San Juan, Batangas.

The CAAP-EU provided The STAR a copy of the notice issued by the DOTC for a public bidding of the project in June 2009, noting that the DOTC’s special bids and awards committee was headed by Mendoza’s classmate in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and fellow retired police general, Doroteo Reyes II, who he appointed as undersecretary for civil aviation.

Before he was appointed to the post of undersecretary post, Reyes served as Mendoza’s head executive assistant at the DOTC.

Reyes’ brother, Domingo Reyes Jr. – another PMA graduate and retired police general – was appointed by Mendoza and served for several years as DOTC assistant secretary for finance and comptrollership.

The Commission on Audit, in their 2009 audit of the DOTC, aired concerns on unnecessary costs of setting up the CNS/ATM and the new Manila ACC.