Philippine Aviation: 2013 Year In Review

The year 2013 in the Philippine Aviation industry was marked by a number of milestones but also a number of shortcomings. With 2014 quickly approaching, budget and full-service carriers are already looking to the year ahead to expand their fleets and route networks as demand for air travel in the country continues to rise. 
philippine airlines
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
A Significant Milestone
Perhaps the most significant milestone of the year was the restoration of direct air service between the Philippines and Europe as Philippine Airlines restored non-stop service to London after a fifteen year absence on November 4. This event was only made possible by the efforts of local authorities and PAL management who convinced European authorities to partially lift the ban preventing Philippine Airlines and other Philippine carriers from mounting flights to Europe. Philippine Airlines also restored service to the Middle East while Cebu Pacific launched its first ever long haul flight to Dubai with the world's most densely configured Airbus A330-300 aircraft. Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines continues to work with the US Federal Aviation Administration in the hopes of restoring the country's aviation safety rating back to Category 1 status that would enable local carriers to expand and mount new flights to the United States. 
Unfortunately, local carriers have not helped the situation in 2013 as many carriers were involved in accidents that only highlighted the shortcomings of the Philippine aviation industry. Much of 2013 seemed to start on a positive trend as the International Civil Aviation Organization removed the Philippines off of its list of countries with significant aviation safety concerns in February. That eventually paved the way for the opening of skies between the Philippines and Japan that had previously imposed restrictions on Philippine carriers as well as the lifting of the European ban on Philippine Airlines. But the high that the country's aviation industry was enjoying ended up being short lived. A Cebu Pacific aircraft that skidded off the Davao runway in June was the start of a series of accidents that would place further scrutiny over the country's aviation industry. 
A String of Accidents in 2013
The Cebu Pacific aircraft that skidded off the runway at Davao International Airport in June highlighted the alarming shortcomings of the airline's crew training. Pilot error was listed as the cause of the accident that resulted in CAAP issuing the airline a list of concerns that needed to be addressed. In addition, CAAP mandated a minimum industry wide 45 minute turnaround on domestic flights in an effort to improve safety. The incident was followed by a second incident later in June where another Cebu Pacific aircraft destroyed runway lights while landing at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. 
In August, a Tigerair Philippines aircraft slid off the runway at Kalibo International Airport when the pilot miscalculated a turn-prior to take off. This incident was followed by the historic suspension of Zest Air's permit to fly for alleged violations of Philippine Civil Aviation Regulations. The suspension stranded more than 8,000 passengers and cost the airline millions of dollars. The suspension was lifted just days later after Zest Air management met with officials at the Civil Aviation Authority. 
In October, a SkyJet Airlines aircraft overshot the runway on Balesin Island in October after the pilot miscalculated the approach. Most recently, an AirAsia Zest aircraft slid off the runway at Kalibo International Airport after the pilot miscalculated a turn prior to take off. The string of incidents in 2013 highlights the alarming state of the country's aviation infrastructure and calls into question the Philippine aviation safety record and reliability and training of Philippine air crews. 
Rationalization of Overcrowded Skies
The saturated Philippine skies received welcome relief in March as Air Asia Philippines and Zest Air announced a strategic partnership with Air Asia assuming a 49 percent stake in Zest Air. Profitability in one of the world's most competitive markets continues to be a challenge with the majority of Philippine carriers continuing to report losses. The competitive environment has made the Philippines into the low-cost carrier capital of the world. Since March, much has changed with AirAsia Philippines moving from Clark International Airport to Terminal 4 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Many internal operations and administrative functions have been consolidated with all reservations now being funnelled through the AirAsia website. Most significantly, Zest Air has undergone a complete rebranding to the name AirAsia Zest with the company's aircraft being repainted in AirAsia colours and crews adopting AirAsia uniforms. The unified entity is now the third largest carrier in the Philippines. Industry experts believe that the airline now shows a positive outlook and strong chances of achieving profitability as it expands its hubs in Manila, Cebu, and Kalibo taking advantage of new route opportunities to Japan and South Korea. The airline is also operating the only direct service between Manila and Miri, Malaysia.
New Air Agreements Bring New Routes
The domestic airline industry in the country is on fire with eight out of ten seats in the domestic market being low-cost carrier seats. There is no other market in the world that enjoys the level of low-cost carrier penetration that is found in the Philippines. But equally exciting to the domestic market is the international market which is starting to heat up as the government continues to negotiate more air agreements. In 2013, the Philippines successfully concluded air talks with Israel, Japan, Italy, Macau, Brazil, and Australia offering new route opportunities for Philippine carriers. The Civil Aeronautics Board continues to aggressively pursue more air agreements as the country attempts to liberalize its international civil aviation policy to open the country up to more tourism growth. The Philippines is expected to hold air negotiations with Russia, France, and Singapore early in 2014 with further countries to be announced later in the year. 
Looking Ahead to 2014
Perhaps the most anticipated event of 2014 is the hopeful lifting of the country's aviation status by US authorities paving the way for new flights to be mounted to the United States. Local authorities remain optimistic that a favourable announcement will be made early in 2014 but it still remains unclear whether this will happen or not. In Europe, Philippine Airlines has ambitious expansion plans for 2014 with plans to mount flights to Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, and Frankfurt. This presents an opportunity for more European tourists to visit the Philippines. PAL faces stiff competition on its European routes and it remains unclear whether the airline will be able to achieve profitability to make them sustainable in the long-term. Cebu Pacific will also have an opportunity early in 2014 to gain access to Europe as it makes a presentation to European authorities with the intention of convincing them to lift the ban that presently prevents the airline from accessing European airspace. If the Philippines is able to achieve Category 1 status with the United States, we could expect to see Cebu Pacific possibly mounting service to Hawaii and Guam. Cebu Pacific will be aggressively expanding into the Japanese market in 2014 and in addition to seeing more Japanese tourists, we can also expect to see a massive drop in airfares to Japan as competition increases. Tigerair Philippines will be launching new services to Japan from Kalibo, Clark, and Manila by the end of the second quarter of 2014. The airline has indicated that it may consider leasing an additional 2-3 aircraft in 2014 but no confirmed announcements have been made. AirAsia Zest will be accepting delivery of new aircraft in 2014 that will help to solidify its presence in Cebu, Kalibo, and NAIA Terminal 4. AirAsia Zest management has already revealed that a number of new destinations will be announced in 2014.
As 2013 draws to a close, the many milestones that occurred from new air agreements to new aircraft deliveries, and airline consolidation will without a doubt generate a positive trend for 2014. While much of what will happen in 2014 remains unclear, what is for certain is that low-cost carriers will continue to dominate the Philippine aviation industry leaving Philippine tourists and travellers in an enviable position to enjoy affordable, low-cost air service to a growing number of destinations domestically, within Asia, and around the world. 
Editor's Note: A big shout out to all of our wonderful photographers especially Angelo Agcamaran of the Philippine Plane Spotters Group for sharing your amazing photos with us and a special thank you to all of our readers for your continued support of Philippine Flight Network!


  1. Here's to a much better 2014!

  2. How about seeing the government gather the guts and straighten out the mess at the MIA, it is now the worst airport in the world!

  3. As a regular (and often delayed and frustrated) frequent flyer in the Philippines I have enjoyed reading your website and the insightful commentary. Thank you! Let’s hope for steady improvements in Philippines Aviation in 2014.

  4. I really enjoyed reading about Philippine Aviation in 2013! The blogs were awesome, and they made me think about how things in aviation are changing. It's like a cool story of P21 framework for 21st century learning education meets the future in the sky

  5. Dreams Wedding Planner: Dreams Wedding Planner is a well-known wedding planning company in Jaipur that specializes in designing and executing customized weddings. They offer a range of services, including venue selection, decoration, catering, entertainment, and more.Best wedding planner in Jaipur | wedding planners in Delhi | Wedding Planners in Goa


Powered by Blogger.