June 8, 2012
By Leithen Francis
Singapore - The Philippine government has set a June 2012 deadline for its civil aviation authority to achieve Category I status with the U.S. FAA.
“The president of the Philippines has given a time frame and it is June 2012,” the month Philippine Airlines (PAL) takes delivery of its next Boeing 777-300ER, PAL President Jaime Bautista tells Aviation Week on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Singapore.
|Philippine Airlines currently operates two Boeing 777-300ER|
PAL has four 777-300ERs on order and Bautista says two are to be delivered in 2012 and two in 2013. PAL currently has two 777s, which it uses for services to Japan and Canada, and it wants the 777 type to replace its five Boeing 747s, he says.
The Philippines is currently designated as FAA Cat. II because the local regulator lacks trained and qualified personnel to do proper regulatory oversight. This problem exists because many of the CAA’s most qualified people leave to join the higher paying private sector. But Cat. II means PAL is unable to increase services to the U.S., change aircraft types on U.S. routes and codeshare with U.S. carriers.
If the Philippines gets Cat. I status, PAL will move to increase its daily Manila-San Francisco service to double-daily and increase its Manila-Los Angeles service to double-daily from nine times weekly, says Bautista. It is also eyeing Chicago, New York, San Diego and Seattle as future destinations, he says. PAL also plans to code-share with U.S. carriers—in the past it had code-shared with American Airlines and Continental Airlines—and longer-term it wants to join an alliance, he adds.
Bautista says the Filipino CAA has made some progress. He says the government recently made the CAA a “special authority” so it can keep the revenues it generates from landing fees, route charges, take-off fees, etc. This means the CAA now has more money to employ more qualified and trained personnel. He also says the CAA has been employing former airline pilots, some of which are over 65, to be check pilots. PAL also persuaded its VP of operations, John Andrews, in January to take up a full-time position at the CAA as deputy director “in the interests of the country.”
In addition, PAL has employed a Washington, D.C.-based aviation safety consulting firm, Tim Neel & Associates, to help train the regulator’s workforce and improve the regulator’s IT and other systems. Bautista says this consulting firm has top people who previously worked for the FAA and this firm has a lot of experience helping airlines in Africa.
Besides long-haul, PAL is continuing to expand its short-haul operation. Bautista says in March and April 2012 it will be taking delivery of two Airbus A320s on lease from GE Capital Aviation Services and it is in the market to lease two more A320’s for delivery in 2012’s last quarter. PAL presently has 17 A320s, all of which it plans to retain, he says, adding that they also have eight Airbus A330s, and four Airbus A340s.
Bautista says PAL’s separate low-cost carrier Air Phil Express has six A320s and plans to have nine at year-end and 14 next year. Airphil Express also operates Bombardier Q-Series turboprops.