Monday, July 1, 2013

Philippine Airlines Anxiously Awaits Clearance to Europe

Philippine Airlines is anxiously awaiting clearance from authorities in the European Union to launch direct flights to London. The carrier has already applied for slots at London's second busiest airport, London Gatwick. 

philippine airlines london gatwick
A Philippine Airlines Boeing 747 at Gatwick Airport in 1990
Copyright Photo: Tim Rees/Airliners.net
The Philippines currently sits on an aviation blacklist in the European Union that prevents Philippine carriers from travelling to Europe but the decision on whether to keep the country on that blacklist is currently under review in Belgium following an inspection that occurred in the Philippines during the first week of June. 

William Hotchkiss, Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines is in Brussels for meetings with the European Union's Aviation Safety Committee to discuss the possibility of approving an application for Philippine Airlines to fly to three European destinations under the European Community's Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft program. If approved, this would enable Philippine Airlines solely to operate flights to Europe on a "selective lifting" basis while the rest of the country and its carriers awaits removal from the blacklist.  

In order for the airline to be approved, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines would have to conform to a stringent program that requires the local aviation authority to perform routine ramp checks on Philippine Airlines aircraft travelling to the European Union. All results of the inspections would need to be communicated to authorities in the European Union. 

The Air Safety Committee which regulates bans on flying in and out of European air space meet twice each year in June and December. A decision on the application of Philippine Airlines and whether the Philippines as a nation will be removed from the blacklist will be announced by July 10, 2013 when it is presented to the European Union for approval. Representatives of Philippine Airlines accompanied the CAAP delegation and initial feedback is positive.

Cebu Pacific was originally part of the application seeking selective lifting of bans but given the landing incidents that occurred in Davao and Manila in June, the CAAP asked Cebu Pacific to withdraw itself from the application to fly to Europe. That means Philippine Airlines will be the only Philippine carrier to serve Europe directly for the immediate future. 

Cebu Pacific previously expressed strong interest in flying to Europe following the arrival of their new Airbus A330 long haul aircraft which can fly up to 11 hours non-stop. John Andrews of CAAP says that the door will not be closed for long and that the airline is welcome to apply again in six months. 

Meanwhile, the United States Federal Aviation Authority will continue their review of the country's aviation practices when another delegation of representatives arrives on July 7, 2013. According to Andrews, the regulators will remain in the country for at least ten days to review and determine what work needs to be done and to assist local authorities with compliance. 

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines is confident that bans to Europe and the United States will be lifted by November. According to Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya, "Once we pass these audits, there will be an expected boom in the Philippine aviation industry as our airlines could soon expand their operations to the US and Europe."

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