Showing posts with label Airport News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Airport News. Show all posts

Monday, August 8, 2016

Clark Airport Under Investigation After Security Breach

A full-scale investigation is under way at Clark International Airport after a man was able to board a flight to Singapore without a passport or even a plane ticket. Airport officials are now under scrutiny following the security lapse.

Image Source: Clark International Airport
According to initial findings reported in the Philippine Inquirer, the intruder, who allegedly claimed to be looking for his wife, entered the terminal at approximately 1:10pm on August 3 through the arrival exit lobby door, having passed all of the security measures in place to ensure efficient screening of passengers at the airport. 

In the Inquirer's report, it was revealed that an unknown source stated that the man headed to the second floor to cross the passengers' boarding bridge to enter the aircraft, after having gained access through the exit door for arriving passengers. He was eventually caught by a flight attendant that asked to see his boarding pass. 

It is rumoured that this may be the second security breach at Clark International Airport this year. The first incident occurred last June, allegedly involving a foreigner. It remains unclear if the intruders were held for questioning or charged in either incident. 

In a memorandum released by Clark International Airport, Emigdio Tanjuatco III, President & CEO of Clark Airport, stated that the incident is completely unacceptable. "Considering that Clark International Airport implements strict security and safety procedures, such incident should not have occurred," said Tanjuatco. "The incident is intolerable as it has created an alarming event that dispels absolute security of the passengers and safety of the whole airport grounds."

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tugade: Change is Coming to Improve, Develop, and Construct Philippine Airports

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade is eyeing development and construction of at least six airports at the beginning of President Rodrigo Duterte's term. In the short term, the government plans to develop Clark International Airport to address congestion at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, as plans are developed for a brand new international airport.

Image Source: Wikimedia
According to Tugade, Clark International Airport has the space and facilities necessary to handle some of the traffic, while the Ninoy Aquino International Airport can still remain useful over the next seven years. 

"In Clark, you have the space," said Tugade. "The development must be pushed and pushed hard at the Clark International Airport. The remedy for Clark and NAIA is they can co-exist and therefore, they must be improved and developed."

The decision to develop the country's two major international airports is earning mass support across the country and in various sectors of government including the Philippine Senate where Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III stated that he would push the Senate to advocate for the development of NAIA and Clark International Airport. According to Pimentel, the nation needs the airports as its main international gateways. He added that NAIA could serve South Metro Manila and Southern Luzon to Bicol, while Clark International Airport can serve North Metro Manila and Northern Philippines.

Meanwhile, Tugade remains open and eager to develop more Private-Public Partnerships for other airports, similar to what was established for Mactan-Cebu International Airport. However, Tugade indicated that he will only support such initiatives if the companies do not ask the government for cash, sovereign guarantees, or obligatory transfer of aircraft from other airports. The Duterte administration plans to cut the PPP bidding process down to six months to help expedite infrastructure projects. 

Unlike his predecessors, Tugade is eager to create change and deliver results acting on previous plans that the previous administration failed to enact. Tugade has identified a number of priorities that he intends to carry out in his early days of office including:
  • Expediting the installation of ILS and night landing lights at a number of the nation's airports in order to enable them to handle night flight operations. This will give airlines greater freedom to schedule flights around the clock and minimise congestion at Ninoy Aquino International Airport during daylight hours. 
  • Making Clark International Airport a viable alternative to Ninoy Aquino International Airport by establishing transportation links to create seamless connectivity between Clark and Metro Manila. 
  • Enhance the quality and efficiency of operations at Ninoy Aquino International Airport by establishing another parallel runway, improving facilities, and improving services, while a brand new airport is constructed. 
  • Improve the experience in the various terminals at NAIA. Terminal 1 will see improvements to passenger comfort and safety including the removal of a steep ramp that arriving passengers were forced to use to access their vehicles. Terminal 2 will also be expanded. 
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, once voted the world's worst airport, will see a number of on-going improvements to create a better passenger experience. Secretary Tugade is promising better enforcement of traffic rules around the terminals and an overhaul of rules covering public transportation including taxis to help improve the flow of traffic. 

Inside the terminals, Tugade wants to remove the first x-ray check at the entrance of all terminals to help improve the flow of departing passengers. This is a practice that is not currently done at most international airports around the world. 

With the removal of private and civilian aircraft at NAIA, additional space will be made available to develop additional apron parking for aircraft and rapid exit taxiways, which will help improve the flow of air traffic on the ground and increase overall efficiency at the airport. The government will also implement strict flight scheduling and slot utilization rules. 

The Department of Transportation also intends to implement recommendations made by a British consultant on runway optimization and the regulation of general aviation during peak hours, which will help improve efficiency and reduce congestion. The potential of this initiative will be realized further once night landing capabilities have been installed at domestic airports. 

Tugade also intends to enhance services provided at Clark International Airport. With a pending plan to eventually shift turbo-prop flights to Clark, Tugade wants to ensure that Clark is equipped with the facilities to handle increased passenger traffic but also diverted flights from NAIA. This includes the purchase of stairs used by aircraft to disembark passengers. 

In addition, Tugade also intends to improve services at Clark for overseas Filipino workers to make the airport more user-friendly for arriving and departing OFW's. This will encourage more OFW's and airlines to use Clark as an alternative to NAIA.

Tugade also promised a review of the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, noting that keeping passengers inside diverted aircraft for lengthy periods of time is not only unacceptable but inhumane. He intends to revisit the rules, which government when passengers should be provided with meals and accommodations by airlines. 

However, one change that remains uncertain is if the government will rename the country's primary international gateway back to its original name as the Manila International Airport. In a recent survey conducted on the Philippine Flight Network website, 75% of respondents voted that the airport's name should be changed from Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Manila International Airport. 

References: Philippine Star

Government Plans New Transportation Links to Clark International Airport

As Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila continues to be plagued by congestion, the Philippine government is studying alternative options to decongest the country's primary international gateway including a greater role for Clark International Airport. However, new transportation links to Pampanga need to be constructed before Clark can begin sharing the workload. 

Image Source: Clark International Airport
According to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, his department intends to finalize a plan within 90 days to construct a new train that will connect passengers from Manila to Clark International Airport. The Philippine government is eyeing for Clark to take shape as a domestic hub and President Duterte has already asked the country's major airlines to transfer smaller turbo-prop aircraft to Clark. However, the plan can only be made viable with the necessary connectivity. 

The Department of Transportation is currently evaluating two options including a standard train or connector road. "Clark will be reachable either by road or by train," said Tugade. "By road, we have to recognize Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 and the Connector Road because that will bring you somewhere in Bulacan, so it gives connectivity." 

Skyway 3 is an elevated expressway that travels from Buendia in Makati to Balinawak in Quezon City. It will be linked to the Circumferential Road 3 in Caloocan City by the North Luzon Expressway and South Luzon Expressway Connector Road.

If the new transportation link is to be by train, it will utilize the alignment belonging to Philippine National Railways or NLEX. Tugade said that the rail project is currently under study by the National Economic and Development Authority. It will be formalized by the department within 90 days.

President Rodrigo Duterte is hoping that a new transportation link to Clark International Airport and the transfer of domestic turbo-prop flights from NAIA will help to address the congestion issues at the country's primary international gateway, while new mass transportation projects are being finalized. 

Duterte floated the idea to his cabinet as a "native idea" that might solve some of the problems, while the larger transportation projects are worked out including a brand new replacement for Ninoy Aquino International Airport. 

"If we can have a road until we can have the new whatever, then just transfer flights to Pampanga so they don't clog airports here," stated Duterte. "The best in the meantime is one road network that will be geared towards Pampanga and Clark so we can use it."

Duterte previously encouraged the idea of building a fast train between Metro Manila and Clark to facilitate growth at the Pampanga Airport and to reduce congestion at NAIA. "You have to have a fast train with two points of entry somewhere in Metro Manila that is not too crowded," said Duterte.

Meanwhile, Duterte is studying previous proposals to construct a new airport at Sangley Point in Cavite. However, he remains uncertain if the Philippine government has the necessary funds to undertake such a large infrastructure project. 

"I really do not know if we have enough money to build a new airport in Sangley," said Duterte. "If there is money, okay, we don't have a problem there." But while Duterte remained unsure of the permanent solution to address the congestion issues at NAIA, he reaffirmed his government's commitment to fix it. "We have to remedy the overcrowded skies of NAIA," said Duterte.

Last year, the Japan International Cooperation Agency identified Sangley Point as an ideal area for an airport that can easily accommodate the number of passengers that presently use the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

Philippine Airlines Studies Transfer of Flights to Clark Following Government Request

Philippine Airlines is now studying the possibility of transferring its turbo-prop flights to Clark International Airport, following a request from the Philippine government to consider the idea of transforming Clark International Airport into a hub for domestic flights in another effort to decongest Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Earlier this month, President Rodrigo Duterte asked Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to evaluate the concept of using Clark International Airport as a domestic flight hub. According to Jaime Bautista, CEO of Philippine Airlines, the national flag carrier is considering the idea to prevent further frustration for passengers. 
"We are working on it," said Bautista. "The reason why the government wants us to move some flights to Clark is because we want to decongest Manila to prevent inconvenience to the passengers." However, Bautista reaffirmed that not all domestic flights would be transferred and that the airline still needs to study the proposal further to assess the impact on passengers and operating costs before making any decisions. 
"We will work with them," said Bautista. "We will present to them our position." However, Bautista added that the Philippine government needs to provide additional infrastructure prior to shifting additional flight operations to Clark. But Philippine Airlines is not the only carrier that has been asked to transfer flights. Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade told reporters that his agency plans to ask all airlines to transfer their turbo-prop flights to Clark as the government works to decongest NAIA.
PAL is currently eyeing to acquire new turbo-prop aircraft next year to replace its existing fleet of ageing regional aircraft. The company plans to make a purchase in 2017 or 2018. Philippine Airlines currently operates a fleet of nine Bombardier turbo-prop aircraft. 
According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila is expected to exceed its maximum handling capacity this year, when the airport is estimated to serve 37.78 million passengers. However, the airport was only built to handle a capacity of 35 million passengers annually.
In response to Bautista's call for additional infrastructure at Clark prior to transferring flights, President Duterte added that the government will study the possibility of enhancing road or rail access to the airport in Pampanga to help facilitate the transfer of domestic flights. 
The President indicated that the use of Clark for domestic flights is only intended as a short-term measure, while the government studies construction of a brand new airport near the existing Ninoy Aquino International Airport. "I don't know if we have the money to build an airport in Sangley," said Duterte. "If investors will come in, then go but for the meantime, we have to remedy the overcrowded sky of NAIA."
The President himself described his own experience of air traffic congestion at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, when the commercial flight he was travelling aboard nearly ran out of fuel while waiting for its turn to land in Manila. "We have been turning around and we are in danger of running out of fuel," said Duterte. "I think it's only good for 17 minutes. Mabuti na lang pina-landing kami. I don't want special treatment."
President Duterte recently reaffirmed his solidarity with the Philippine travelling public shunning any special treatment and directing his cabinet to reject any special treatment. "I want this stopped. We should not be treated different from the other suffering Filipino passengers," said Duterte. "We should treat ourselves just like any other Filipino travelling."
Duterte added that he intends to take ordinary commercial flights and transfer the aviation assets of the Philippine President over to the military. "Akala siguro nila bibili ako. Kasi sabi ko 'yung lahat ng [planes] I am turning it over to the military pati 'yung mga assets ng Pangulo. Gawin na natin ospital 'yan. Put it to good use rather than allow it to rust to death," stated Duterte.

Meanwhile, the government plans to act on a previous recommendation to remove all cargo and private aircraft from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in a further effort to decongest the airport. According to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, they will be transferred to Sangley Point in Cavite, Laguna Lake, or Fernando Air Base. Tugade's Department of Transportation plans to issue notice to general aviation operators within his first 100 days in office. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Completion of Bicol International Airport Delayed to August 2018

Completing the Bicol International Airport remains a top priority for Former Albay Governor Joey Salceda as he takes on his new role as the newly elected representative of Albay's second congressional district. The project was originally scheduled to be completed in July 2017, but was delayed to August 2018 due to the failure of the previous administration to award contracts.

Image Source: Business World Online
Earlier this year, Salceda wrote to former Department of Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya requesting to expedite the awarding of the contract for phase 2A of the Bicol International Airport, which includes the construction of landside facilities. 

Lawmakers in Bicol have remained frustrated over the past months as on-going delays "due to technicalities" continue to cost the region billions of pesos in opportunity losses from what would be increased tourism and enhanced economic activity.

The new airport is expected to trigger economic growth in the Bicol region, as the new airport delivers a safe, economical, and faster way of reaching local and international destinations. The P4.7 billion project is currently under construction in Daraga, Albay. It will feature a 13,320 square meter two-storey passenger terminal and separate cargo facility. 

Salceda expects that the development of the new airport will bring approximately five million tourists to the region by 2025, investments totalling nearly US$1 billion, and 235,000 jobs within the next decade.

The Bicol International Airport, coupled with two other infrastructure projects, the South Luzon Expressway extension and the South Luzon Railway, are all expected to transform Bicol into a new investment haven in southern Luzon.

The City of Naga has also faced delays with improvements to its airport. Naga is not expected to see completion of an airport expansion project until 2019. Last year, the National Economic and Development Authority approved an expansion of the terminal building and runway re-orientation to accommodate larger jets. 

However, the airport expansion project caused the demise of another project originally announced in 2012 to install a P50 million airfield lighting system that would have enabled Naga Airport to conduct night flight operations and expand the current number of flights to the city. The decision cost the city millions of pesos in lost economic activity and tourism growth as Naga has been forced to wait until 2019 before it can realize any growth through its airport.

Meanwhile, as the seventeenth Congress is slated to begin on July 25, incoming Senate President Aquilino Pimentel has placed the development of the country's two major international airports at the top of his agenda. Pimentel stated earlier this week that he will push for the development of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the Clark International Airport. 

"We need the two airports as our main international gateways," said Pimentel. "NAIA to serve South Metro Manila and Southern Luzon to Bicol, and Clark to serve North Metro Manila and Northern Philippines, to ease travel and flow of logistics."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Change is in the Air: Philippine President Flies Economy

Maintaining his simplistic lifestyle, President Duterte set yet another example as the country's chief executive when he boarded a commercial flight from Manila to Davao last week. The new President of the Philippines shunned all special treatment at Ninoy Aquino International Airport including the use of the Presidential private jet as he walked through security just like a regular passenger.

president duterte
Photo Credit: Presidential Photographers Division/King Rodriguez
In an article published in the Philippine Star, photos released by the Presidential Communications Office showed President Duterte seated in Premium Economy Class aboard a Philippine Airlines flight bound for Davao. Duterte sat at a window seat aboard flight PR1825 that departed Manila at 9:00pm last Thursday night.

Other photos showed Duterte walking through the x-ray and metal scanners, raising his arms for inspection, just like a regular passenger as he walked to his boarding gate at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2. 

duterte humble president
Photo Credit: Presidential Photographers Division/King Rodriguez
Passengers at the airport cheered as they observed Duterte enter the building, passing through the regular security check as a common Filipino citizen. In his first cabinet meeting following his inauguration on June 30, Duterte instructed all of his Cabinet members to shun priority treatment at the airports. "We should treat ourselves just like any other Filipino travelling," said the Philippine President. 

In addition, Duterte made it clear that he does not want any government officials, especially Cabinet members, flying Business Class while travelling. Duterte also plans to remove the presidential no-fly zone when he flies in and out of the country's main gateway. In the past, the no-fly zone has caused disruption and delay at the airport to the frustration and inconvenience of passengers.

philippine government aircraft
"The Presidential Jet"
Image Source: Global Aviation Resource
Duterte's special assistant Christopher Go and members of the Presidential Security Group accompanied Duterte on the Philippine Airlines flight. The President was on his way to attend the Hari Raya Festival in Davao.

President Duterte intends to split his work week between Manila and Davao City. Duterte is the nation's sixteenth President. He is known for his simple living in spite of serving as Mayor of Davao for twenty-three years.

References: Philippine Star

New Transportation Secretary Seeks Support of Airlines for Airport Maintenance

The Duterte administration is beginning to make changes at the country's primary international gateway as it seeks to shed its reputation as one of the world's worst airports. The nation's new Transportation Secretary, Arthur Tugade, has sought the help of airlines operating at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila to maintain the public restrooms at all terminals.

Image Source: Inviva Link
According to Tugade, the company that originally won the bidding to maintain the airport's utilities has been performing below the standards necessary to maintain a quality service, which triggered the new Transportation Secretary to make changes.

"One of the basic problems which irritated the community is the issue of maintenance of the washrooms and utilities inside the airport. So it has come to me that one way to approach this is to remove the activity from government and give it to the people that are operating in the airport," Tugade said. The plan now is to remove the existing company from government service and transfer maintenance of the facilities to the private sector, led by the nation's top airlines.

On July 7, Philippine carriers were asked to sign a memorandum of agreement indicating that they would accept responsibility for improving and maintaining the airport's toilets and utilities. The airlines welcomed the decision, which came as a surprise to Tugade given that it would mean increased costs for the nation's carriers.

"I asked Mr. Lance (Gokongwei, CEO of Cebu Pacific), sabi ko, 'Sir puwede ho bang humingi ng tulong?' At sabi niya, 'You know Art just ask for help and my company and group of companies will extend our support and cooperation,'" Tugade said. "That was the same situation when I talked to other airlines." he added.

The airlines that signed the Memorandum of Agreement include Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, AirAsia Philippines, PAL Express, Cebgo, and Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions. The signatories included the following:

  • Cebu Pacific President and CEO Lance Gokongwei
  • Philippine Airlines President and COO Jaime Bautista
  • AirAsia Philippines COO Capt. Dexter Comendador
  • PAL Express President Bonifacio Sam
  • Cebgo President and CEO Michael Ivan Shau
  • Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions AVP Leah de Guzman Jore.

Tugade added that the entire experience was positive as it demonstrated cooperation between the airlines and the new government. "Napakaganda nitong experience at ceremony na ito because it shows how far the business community is willing to show the support and cooperation to the Duterte administration," Tugade said.

NAIA remains a 'worst airport'

The premier gateway of the Philippines was listed as one of the world's worst airports ranked by the online website, The Guide to Sleeping in Airports from 2011 to 2013. The airport significantly improved its ranking in 2014 finishing in fourth place, while in 2015, it was knocked off the list entirely. However, it is still remains the eighth worst airport in Asia.

Image Source: Wikimedia
"Passengers remain annoyed by the poor customer service, the long queues, the sub-par food selection, the lack of restrooms and the crowded seating areas. There is definitely a long way to go but we're thrilled to see improvements come along bit by bit."  stated the Sleeping in Airports website.

Since taking office, the Duterte administration has wasted no time in making changes at the country's top airport, acting on the feedback of both passengers and airlines. The decision to transfer control of airport maintenance to the private sector represents a shift from the previous administration, which preferred government control and oversight of the nation's airports rather than cooperating with private companies. In 2014, San Miguel Corporation presented a P10 billion proposal to construct a brand new airport for Manila. However, the Aquino administration refused to acknowledge unsolicited bids. Meanwhile, following the success at Mactan-Cebu International Airport, there is a stronger desire to shift management of the nation's airports to the private sector.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Air New Zealand Postpones Manila Service

Air New Zealand has announced that it will be postponing the launch of its non-stop service between Auckland and Manila. In a statement released to travel agents, Air New Zealand cited administrative reasons as the cause for the delay.

air new zealand manila
Image Source: Wikimedia
"Administrative delays in being able to make the new route available for sale, coupled with the traditionally longer booking window for this market, have led to the deferral decision," said Air New Zealand. "The service was to launch in December 2016, but has now been deferred until further notice."

Earlier this year, Air New Zealand made an announcement that it was growing its network in the Pacific Rim by launching the only non-stop flight between New Zealand and the Philippines.  The service was to begin in December with three weekly flights operated by a Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. The carrier was hoping to begin ticket sales by the end of the first half of this year. 

Last April, Air New Zealand's Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon indicated that the carrier had great confidence in the new route. "The Filipino population in New Zealand has more than tripled since 2001 and is now the third largest Asian ethnic group with around 40,000 Filipinos resident in New Zealand," said Luxon. "The number of visitors from the Philippines is also continuing to grow rapidly, up more than 20 percent in the past year alone so we're anticipating that demand for this service will be steady in both directions."

When Air New Zealand begins flying to Manila, it will be the fastest flight between the two nations at approximately 10.5 hours. "As the only non-stop service between New Zealand and the Philippines, our flight will be quicker and more convenient for travellers than the fastest current option, which flies indirect, potentially saving up to two and a half hours each way," added Luxon.

Although no specific details were given regarding the administrative delays, it is highly likely that the cause can be attributed to the limited supply of slots available at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which would make it challenging for Air New Zealand to obtain their preferred schedule.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand-Philippines market continues to be served by one-stop products including the Philippine Airlines service from Manila to Auckland via Cairns. The national flag carrier launched the service last December with Airbus narrow-body aircraft.

References: Australian Aviation

Monday, July 4, 2016

Caticlan Airport Construction Continues, SMC Plans Bridge to Boracay

Although construction of the Caticlan Airport runway extension has been completed, the new gateway to Boracay Island remains far from completion. Work on the airport's new apron seems nearly complete, while construction of the brand new terminal building has yet to begin.

caticlan airport
Image Source: CAZA
According to Ramon Ang, President of San Miguel Corporation, which controls the Caticlan Airport through its affiliate TransAire Development Holdings, the upgrade of the existing airport has been completed, while the new terminal is all the remains to be constructed. 

caticlan airport
Image Source: CAZA
In an interview with the Philippine Inquirer, Ang stated that, "The Caticlan Airport could already accommodate big jets." He added that a temporary terminal is being set up that would be able to accommodate the increased volume of passengers travelling through Caticlan. The temporary terminal is expected to be completed within the next six months. 

caticlan airport
Image Source: CAZA
A number of local and foreign carriers are already lining up to shift their A320 and Boeing 737 flights to Caticlan Airport. According to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, this may lead to over capacity in the Manila-Caticlan market, while Kalibo Airport may suffer from under-capacity as airlines switch flights to Caticlan.

caticlan airport
Image Source: Skyscraper City Forums
In addition to the construction of a larger airport passenger terminal and the extension of the runway, San Miguel Corporation plans a complete rehabilitation that includes improvement of road networks, air traffic control aids, and an upgrade of the airport facilities. It is envisioned for Caticlan Airport to be on par with some of the best airports in the region. 

caticlan airport
Image Source: Skyscraper City Forums
However, San Miguel Corporation recently unveiled an even bigger plan for Caticlan as it proposed to construct a 1.9 kilometre toll bridge that would connect the tiny community with the world-famous Boracay Island, which is presently only accessible by boat. 

According to Ang, the project would cost an estimated $100 million at current exchange rates and it would be up to the local government unit to award the contract to a private sector firm. "We proposed the idea for them to bid out," said Ang. "For us, it's okay if there are other bidders."

Ang believes that the new project would enhance connectivity and convenience for tourists. "They can all live in Caticlan and enjoy the view in Boracay, which is now so congested and has a lot of sewage problems." Ang intends to develop Caticlan to help decongest Boracay Island, while also providing services such as a hospital, retail complex, convention centre, hotels, and restaurants. "It would be possible for tourists to find cheaper accommodations in Caticlan," added Ang. "We think what's best is if everybody will stay and eat in Caticlan, and then go to Boracay to enjoy the beach."

The Caticlan Airport upgrade is expected to transform Boracay into a more affordable holiday destination as the increase in regional and domestic flights drives down airfare costs. But not everyone is convinced that this expansion is good for the community or the environment. 

Caticlan residents have asked the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and San Miguel Corporation to provide a clearer picture on how they intend to expand the airport and surrounding area. In an interview with the Manila Bulletin, an official from Barangay Caticlan revealed that the Department of Transportation and TransAire Development Holdings have yet to present an actual master development plan for expansion of the airport. 

caticlan airport
Image Source: CAZA
Although the last round of inter-agency dialogue took place in March of this year, no concrete answers have been provided to the estimated 8,000 local residents that will be heavily affected by the airport's expansion. 

A protest was held last year over the low amount that was offered by TransAire for residential lands that will be impacted by expansion of the airport. According to a barangay official, low-income families were left with no choice but to accept the low payment of P1,000 per square metre when market values ranged from P5,000 to P10,000 per square meter. 

Barangay Caticlan residents have expressed frustration with the "unjust" manner in which the Caticlan Airport expansion has been implemented. Residents claim that the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines fast-tracked the process to allow TransAire to begin the initial phase of expansion. 

According to residents, no public hearing ever took place on what seems to be a non-inclusive development project that is likely to leave poor families behind. "Families have already been evicted and have become squatters to give way to the airport expansion project," said Barangay Caticlan Secretary Hazel De Los Reyes.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Fixing NAIA (Part 1): The Case for Privatised Airports in the Philippines

The future growth of the Philippine economy will depend heavily on reliable and affordable air transportation. With the introduction of low-cost carriers to the Philippine market, commercial aviation is no longer a luxury reserved for the elite but rather a service that is now available to a wide segment of the Filipino population. But by the same token that the Philippines is estimated to lose P2.4 billion daily due to traffic congestion in Manila, the same can be said for the nation's primary international gateway where airlines cannot open new routes or increase service due to congestion at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Image Source: Live Philippines
Air transportation plays a major role in the economy as it fuels tourism, business travel, and trade. But growth of air transportation relies heavily on the nation's aviation infrastructure. At present, the nation's major commercial airports are virtually all owned and operated by the Philippine government with the exception of Caticlan and Cebu Airports, which are operated by the private sector.

Many analysts have already written reports indicating that the demand for air travel in the Philippines is expected to surge. However, the nation is not presently equipped to handle the growth with the current aviation infrastructure in place. In addition, there is a shortage of air traffic controllers in the country as many have been lured to work overseas. Major change is necessary as the increased air traffic will one day prove to exceed the limits of the present air traffic control system in the Philippines.

The Philippines has been slow to embrace the types of reforms necessary to address these issues. Such reforms include the privatization of airports and the commercialization of air traffic control services, which have already been adopted in many countries around the world and been integrated successfully.

Unlike the Philippine government, commercialized air traffic control agencies and investor-owned and operated airports such as the Mactan-Cebu International Airport are in a much better position to respond to changing market conditions. In addition, they are able to freely tap debt and equity markets for capital expansion to satisfy growth in demand.

In a report published in the United States and authored by Robert Poole, Director of Transportation Policy for the Reason Foundation, Poole advocates that such enterprises are also better equipped to address workforce issues and complex technology implementation as a result of greater management flexibility.

Poole highlights vast foreign experience that can be used as a model in the pursuit of reforms for the aviation industry including the privatization of airports in Europe and the commercialization of air traffic control in Canada. Although the majority of commercial airports in the Philippines are owned by the Philippine government, the trend around the world is for airports to be viewed more as a business enterprise, rather than a monopolistic public service. 

Even former Philippine Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya came to the realization that airports perform better when operated as a business enterprise. "It should be run like a hotel," said Abaya. "There should be an attention to detail, and the importance of customer service and efficiency should be a main priority." Consequently, governments in developed and developing nations are now looking to the private sector for airport development and management. 

An entrepreneurial approach to airport management will increase operating efficiency, improve passenger amenities, and lead to rapid expansion to reduce congestion. Ultimately, all major stakeholders from passengers to airlines and taxpayers benefit from this commercial approach to airport management.
Poole notes in his report that the simplest form of privatization for existing airports is to contract out management of the airport on a short-term basis. However, long-term leases are more likely to provide incentive to private operators to invest more in the development of the airport, shifting responsibility from the government to the private sector.

In terms of the development of new airports, the private sector can either be granted a long-term contract to finance, design, and operate the facility, or they can be granted full private ownership and management as is seen in many airports throughout Europe. Britain led the way in 1987 as the British Airports Authority was privatised. Some other examples of privatised airports include London, Rome, Sydney, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam. In the case of Australia, most of the nation's major airports have been privatised or contracted out under long-term leases.

Another benefit of airport privatisation can be derived from the deregulation of the airline industry. As deregulation occurs, new airlines enter the market, prices fall, and the volume of air traffic increases significantly. This enables more people to travel and consumers to save money.

Unfortunately, under the existing system, existing airlines operating in the Philippines are unable to expand and new entrants are unable to enter the market as Ninoy Aquino International Airport is already too congested and there are limited slots available for new entrants, which stifles the growth of air traffic and competition. Most recently, this issue led the President of Philippine Airlines to ask the Duterte administration to prioritise addressing congestion at the nation's airports to enable the national flag carrier to expand.

Since its inception, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport has been run in an old-fashioned and bureaucratic manner. However, investor-owned airports are operated like businesses with the goal of making profits and tailoring services to meet the varying needs of customers including passengers and airlines. In his report, Poole cites detailed research performed by scholars at Oxford University, which demonstrates that the management approach of privatised airports is significantly more "passenger friendly" than that of traditional airports.

Meanwhile, air traffic control in the Philippines is predicted to face challenges as air travel demand outpaces the ability of the existing system to expand capacity. One issue is whether future projected system funding will be in line with the rising air traffic, as the system already faces shortfalls in labour due to poor remuneration in the industry.

The best way to address this issue is to remove the Air Traffic Control system out of the hands of government and to create a self-supporting entity that would be funded directly by its customers. Instead of charging aviation related taxes, fees for air traffic control services would be paid directly by customers to a new self-sustaining Air Traffic Control organization. This would enable revenue to grow at a consistent pace with increased flight activity. In addition, commercialization would also address management problems such as the labour shortage, enabling a new organization to attract the best skilled labour necessary to adequately satisfy the demands of the industry.

Canada was one of the first countries to pioneer the commercialization of the ATC system. In 1996, a private, not for profit ATC corporation was set up by the Canadian government called Nav Canada. The system has earned worldwide praise for its sound finances, solid management, and investment in new technologies, which are all self-supporting and funded by charges levied on aviation users.

Overall, studies have determined that the commercialization of air traffic control has typically resulted in improvements to service quality, better management, and a reduction in cost. More importantly, air safety has remained the same in countries that have pursued such reforms.

Airline competition can expand, which would benefit consumers, if the Philippines reformed the antiquated ownership and management structures of Philippine airports. As the world shifts to operating airports as a for-profit enterprise as opposed to a government subsidised service, the Philippines must adopt a similar paradigm that is more consistent in fostering a dynamic and competitive airline industry.

References: Airports & Air Traffic Control

V Air Cancels Low-Cost Service between Manila and Taipei

Taiwanese low-cost carrier V Air announced that it will be cancelling its only route to the Philippines, less than four months after the service began. The subsidiary of TransAsia Airways will operate its last flight between Taipei and Manila on July 14.

v air philippines
Image Source: Wikimedia
Last October, V Air announced that it would launch low-cost flights between Manila and Taipei, competing directly with Philippine budget carrier Cebu Pacific. The carrier launched four weekly flights on March 27, 2016 utilising its fleet of A321 aircraft.

It is believed that the route cancellation stemmed from intense competition from full-service carriers including China Airlines, Eva Air, and Philippine Airlines, who also compete on the route along with budget carrier Cebu Pacific. Both China Airlines and Eva Air responded to the entry of V Air by heavily discounting prices and increasing capacity, which negatively impacted sales for V Air.

It remains unclear if V Air will attempt to compete in the Philippine market in the near future. Shortly after the launch of V Air's service between Manila and Taipei, executives from the Taiwanese budget carrier revealed that the carrier was also interested in launching direct flights from Taiwan to Kalibo, Puerto Princesa, and Cebu by April 2017. Airlines officials have not disclosed if the previously planned Philippine expansion will proceed.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Thai Smile Launching Cebu to Bangkok Flights in November

Thai Smile, the regional affiliate of Thai Airways International, plans to launch non-stop service from Bangkok to Mactan-Cebu International Airport in November. It will become the only direct service from the Visayas to Thailand.

thai smile a320
Image Source: Asia Travel Tips
Earlier this year, the Thai Airways President announced that Cebu had been added to the carrier's list of new destinations. The new service would complement Thai's existing daily non-stop flight from Bangkok to Manila. The addition of Cebu represents an effort by the Thai flag carrier to expand its network and revive routes that now have the potential to be profitable.

Thai Airways recently announced that it planned to recruit up to 600 new flight attendants to support the network expansion ahead of the upcoming peak season. "We see a very bright future for us in the coming high season this year," said Charamporn Jotikasthira, Thai Airways President. "It's a time for THAI to move fast."

The Thai flag carrier is pushing for Bangkok to become a true aviation hub for Southeast Asia by increasing frequencies on several routes including Bangkok-Manila, as the carrier attempts to attract connecting passengers from India, Europe, and the Middle East.

Thai Airways launched Thai Smile in July 2012 as its low-cost arm and regional affiliate. The Thai subsidiary currently operates a fleet of 15 Airbus A320-200 aircraft in an all-Economy class configuration of 174 seats. However, thirty seats aboard each aircraft are dedicated to 'Smile Plus,' which is the carrier's version of Economy Plus offering enhanced in-flight service and additional space.

When Thai Smile launches new service to Bangkok from Cebu, it will become the fifth new international route added from Cebu this year alone. Earlier this year, Mactan-Cebu Airport celebrated the launch of direct flights to Los Angeles, Taipei, Dubai, and Xiamen.

Philippine Airlines Considers Regional Hub in Davao

National flag carrier Philippine Airlines is contemplating the possibility of developing a hub in Davao for regional and inter-island flights. According to Philippine Airlines President Jaime Bautista, Davao has proven to be a profitable market domestically. 

philippine airlines davao
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
"One of our profitable domestic routes is Davao," said Bautista. "Davao would be another airport that we would consider to be a hub." He added that Philippine Airlines was considering launching flights from Davao to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Manado, Bali, Palau, and Australia.

While Philippine Airlines currently operates flights from Davao to Cebu and Manila, its chief rival, Cebu Pacific, already utilises Davao as a strategic hub with non-stop service to Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Iloilo, Zamboanga, Manila, and Singapore. 

According to Cebu Pacific, Davao has emerged as one of the budget carrier's most popular destinations with an average 44,000 passengers flying on board Cebu Pacific flights out of Davao each week. Cebu Pacific operates a total of 128 weekly flights from Davao. In 2015, the annual passenger volume for Davao reached more than 2.15 million passengers for Cebu Pacific alone, representing an increase of 4 percent over the previous year.

Last year, Philippine Airlines invested in Cebu, where it revived its domestic hub with flights to six cities including Bacolod, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Iloilo, and Tacloban.  All flights are operated by Philippine Airlines' A320 fleet. 

Cebu has become a battleground for Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines as they pursue ambitious domestic expansion in an effort to establish dominance and control market share. Both carriers have added capacity in Cebu this year across several domestic routes. Davao is likely to become the next battleground.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ninoy Aquino International Airport: It's Everyone Else's Fault!

If incompetence had a name, it would be Jose Angel Honrado, General Manager of Ninoy Aquino International Airport. If it was believed that NAIA was a ship that could not sink any further, we should all consider using Honrado as the anchor to finish the job once and for all. There have indeed been many dark days in the history of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. But at the end of Honrado's tenure, we may have finally reached the darkest of them all.

Image Source: Inquirer
An article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that at his last flag-raising ceremony as the General Manager of the Manila International Airport Authority, Honrado finally revealed the true cause of all the woes that the country's main gateway has had to endure over the years: the media.

Really? Whenever you have a commander and chief who chooses to blame everyone else but himself and refuses to accept ultimate responsibility for the agency that he has been entrusted with, then there is indeed truly no hope left at all.

From the title of the World's Worst Airport to a series of incidents that have included everything from murder to leaking roofs, sink holes, power outages, bullet-planting, and collapsing ceilings, Honrado blames the media for doing their jobs, while he failed to do his. 

His leadership has even influenced his fellow colleagues, who were also inspired to blame others for the airport's shortcomings. It was only two months ago that an overseas foreign worker complained that her bag had been damaged and items had been stolen from inside. NAIA officials insisted that the incident must have occurred at Hong Kong Airport

According to Honrado, it all began in 2011 when NAIA earned the title as the World's Worst Airport. Since then, the media has been "hounding us day in and day out," stated Honrado. He added that the MIAA was devasted after the agency was blamed for not resolving the "tanim-bala" problem even though they allegedly had no oversight or influence over the airport security screening process.

Honrado's incompetence can be summed up by this statement he made after NAIA Terminal 3 was hit by a five-hour power outage, which he described as a "blessing in disguise." His response to the incident: "We became more aware of the importance of maintenance." Is this guy for real? 

It's incredibly ironic that an individual who doesn't even recognize the importance of basic maintenance could be associated with one of the world's safest industries. However, it's hard to know whether one should point the finger solely at Honrado or at President Aquino for allowing this farce to continue for so many years without correction.

Honrado highlighted his incompetence further when he said, "The succeeding months proved to be non-significant, but not to the media. The broken glass panels, a 2x2 meter slab falling, the low water pressure, and the wrong spelling of the signages were highlighted for lack of something big." 

If mediocre and unsafe were acceptable standards for what should be considered a normal operation, then Honrado is highly qualified for the job. All I can say is that we should be thankful that the media, which represents the voice of the people, cared enough to highlight these incidents as significant. But perhaps the more significant issue is the fact that Honrado believed these incidents were insignificant. 

If safety is not a significant issue to the person entrusted with the safety of millions of passengers, then serious questions need to be put forward. Furthermore, if he can't even accomplish simple proof reading and ensure that signage is spelled correctly, then what exactly is he being paid to do? Does he even work? But at least we know our terminal fees have been well spent. Right?

In his final address, he told employees of NAIA that they had survived. "I dare say, we survived them all," said Honrado. Indeed, they were incredibly lucky to survive in an airport run by him! "Please accept the assumption that I did my job as my conscience and competence allowed me to do it," added Honrado.

It was obviously an assumption that Honrado was competent because he wasn't hired to be the NAIA chief based on any relevant experience or proven track record in airport management. Indeed, all NAIA employees are left to do is assume that he was doing his job because there are simply no facts evident over his entire term to suggest or prove that he did anything, much less do it competently. Can you believe that NAIA doesn't even have a functional website for passengers with real-time arrival and departure information?

Luckily, employees of NAIA aren't fooled by Honrado's rhetoric. As he recounted his alleged milestones, employees mocked him, highlighting their resentment over unpaid and withheld benefits. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 contractual workers that were responsible for maintenance in NAIA's four terminals remained bound to repeating six-month contracts without regularization and benefits even though some had been working at the airport at least fifteen years. 

Honrado's tenure at NAIA is indeed a period best forgotten. It was a dark moment in the country's history and a bruise on the country's pride. If there is any legacy that Honrado has left, it is the taste of failure and a reminder to employees and the travelling public alike that we do not ever want to see such incompetence at the helm of the nation's primary international gateway ever again. The Philippines deserves better.

In fairness, Honrado did most likely win at least one award during his tenure -- the award for the highest number of calls for resignation that any NAIA chief has ever seen. Kudos to him for being that callus and arrogant that he never once obliged over the six years that he was in charge. A Japanese official likely would have been shamed to resignation or possibly even suicide after earning the title of the World's Worst Airport!

We deserve a gateway that we can be proud of that is efficient, safe, comfortable, warm, and welcoming to everyone who passes through it. It should be a facility that represents the heart of the Filipino to each foreigner that arrives and showcases the best that this country has to offer. For balikbayans, it should represent, "Welcome Home!" as opposed to "I'm so glad I left!"

After all, it is the very first impression that anyone sees when they arrive in the Philippines. But if the primary international airport cannot be perceived as safe and welcoming, what is a tourist to expect for the rest of the country? One can only hope that the next General Manager will paint a much brighter picture that is better reflective of the Philippines and worthy of the Filipino. Better yet -- award the management of NAIA to a private operator that can deliver results like in Cebu.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Air New Zealand Launching Direct Flights From Manila to Auckland

Air New Zealand has announced that it plans to begin non-stop flights to Manila from Auckland beginning in December of this year. The launch of the new flights mark the introduction of the fastest flight and only non-stop service between New Zealand and the Philippines

air new zealand philippine flights
Image Source: Australian Aviation / Rob Finlayson

Air New Zealand initially hinted that it was considering the Philippines as a destination last November. According to Air New Zealand's Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon, the new route should prove to be popular in both directions. 

"The Filipino population in New Zealand has more than tripled since 2001 and is now the third largest Asian ethnic group with around 40,000 Filipinos resident in New Zealand," said Luxon. "The number of visitors from the Philippines is also continuing to grow rapidly, up more than 20 percent in the past year alone so we're anticipating that demand for this service will be steady in both directions."

The new flights will operate three-times weekly with flying time between Manila and Auckland taking approximately 10.5 hours. 

"As the only non-stop service between New Zealand and the Philippines, our flight will be quicker and more convenient for travellers than the fastest current option, which flies indirect, potentially saving up to two and a half hours each way," added Luxon.

Luxon was referring to Philippine Airlines' service to Auckland which travels via Cairns, Australia. The New Zealand flag carrier is getting a head start on Philippine Airlines, which launched service to New Zealand last December. The PAL flight, which lasts approximately 12 hours, is operated four-times weekly using a single-aisle 156-seat Airbus A320 aircraft. 

At the time of the route launch, Philippine Airlines President Jaime Bautista indicated that the Philippine flag carrier was planning to develop the market so that they could operate the route non-stop in two years. With Air New Zealand launching non-stop service ahead of Philippine Airlines,  it remains unclear if PAL will accelerate its plans to operate the service non-stop. 

Flights offered by Air New Zealand will be operated by the carrier's Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. Air New Zealand's Boeing 767 aircraft are equipped with 230 seats including 24 in Business Class. Each seat is equipped with personal audio-video entertainment

Air New Zealand is planning to replace its Boeing 767 fleet with state-of-the-art Boeing 787-9 aircraft in late 2017. However, it remains unclear if the Manila route will eventually transition to a Boeing 787 service. Tickets for the new route are expected to go on sale mid-year pending government and regulatory approvals.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Qatar Airways Plans Daily 787 Flights to Cebu in 2016

A report released by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation reveals that Doha-based Qatar Airways is planning to resume non-stop flights between Doha and Cebu with daily Boeing 787 service by the end of this year. Qatar previously served Cebu via Singapore until the route was dropped in 2012.

qatar cebu flight
Image Source: Qatar Airways
In an interview at the Singapore Airshow with the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker, revealed that the carrier was laying out plans to launch daily service to Cebu by the end of 2016 with initial service operated by a Boeing 787-8 aircraft. The carrier intends to eventually transition the route to an Airbus A350 service.

Qatar Airways currently operates three daily flights to the Philippines. Two daily flights are operated by a Boeing 777-300ER between Doha and Manila, while a third daily flight is operated from Doha to Clark with an Airbus A330-200.

Once Qatar launches daily service to Cebu, it will become the third largest foreign airline operating in the Philippines after Cathay Pacific and Emirates. Qatar was forced to launch service to Clark in 2013 after it lost the rights to operate a second daily service to Manila following the termination of a codeshare agreement with Philippine Airlines. However, following the renegotiation of the Qatar-Philippines air services agreement, Qatar was able to restore the second daily frequency to Manila, while maintaining the service to Clark International Airport.

Qatar currently competes with both Cebu Pacific and Philippines Airlines, which operate flights from Manila to Doha. Cebu Pacific launched service to Doha in July 2015, while Philippine Airlines only began operating the route last month.

This will be the second time that Qatar has attempted flights to Cebu. It began operating flights to Cebu via Singapore in 2003 with a daily Airbus A330-200 service. But the unprofitable route was dropped in 2012 due to low yields. However, Qatar Airways believes that the route can be made viable with a new-generation aircraft such as the Boeing 787, which is more fuel-efficient and costs less to operate. As the carrier accepts delivery of more A350 aircraft, the route will eventually be transitioned to an A350 service.

The launch date is presently contingent on aircraft delivery schedules. However, Qatar has committed to launch the new route in 2016, which will make it Cebu's third long haul destination after Los Angeles and Dubai. Under the leadership of the GMR-Megawide partnership, Mactan-Cebu International Airport is quickly rising as an alternative transit hub to Manila, which is plagued by congestion and poor facilities.

Cebu Pacific currently operates more than twenty domestic routes from Cebu with plans to expand further, while Philippine Airlines operates seven domestic routes from the airport. According to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, there are considerable opportunities for growth from Cebu. However, carriers should beware of overcapacity, which could become a concern on international routes. CAPA noted that Cebu is a price-sensitive market with limited premium demand as was discovered during Qatar's last attempt to serve the city non-stop. With Emirates recently launching direct service between Cebu and Dubai, it remains unclear if Cebu will be able to support two Gulf carriers.

References: CAPA

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Vanilla Air Plans Low-Cost Flights to Cebu

Vanilla Air is planning on entering the Philippine market in the future with flights to Cebu as the Japanese budget carrier expands its reach deeper into Southeast Asia. The airline, which is owned entirely by All Nippon Airways through ANA Holdings, is targeting destinations in the region that are currently not served by its parent company. 

vanilla air cebu
Image Source: Nikkei Asian Review
The Japanese budget carrier was originally established as AirAsia Japan, a joint venture between Malaysia based AirAsia and ANA of Japan. However, the two companies decided to terminate their partnership in 2013 after less than a year of operation, citing differences in corporate culture. Following the dissolution of the partnership, the carrier became 100 percent owned by ANA and began operating as its low-cost subsidiary.

Based out of Tokyo's Narita Airport, Vanilla Air now operates with eight 180-seat Airbus A320 aircraft on three Japanese domestic routes and two international routes to Taiwan and Hong Kong. But given the intense competition in the Japanese market, particularly from Tokyo's Narita Airport, the budget carrier is planning to expand its reach in Asia from a new hub in Taipei, which currently lacks low-cost carriers

Until the launch of Tigerair Taiwan in 2014, Taiwan was the last of the twelve largest aviation markets in Asia without a local low-cost carrier. Vanilla Air now plans to turn Taipei into its secondary hub beginning in October of this year. Although official plans have yet to be released, it is rumoured that the company is initially eyeing flights to Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore.

Vanilla Air will launch flights from Taiwan using "beyond rights", which enable the carrier to offer flights between a second and third country, as long as it is operated by an aircraft that carried passengers from its home base in Japan to the second country, which in this case is Taiwan.

After Vanilla Air establishes its presence in Taiwan with its initial destinations, it is believed that the carrier will target destinations that are currently not served by the ANA Group. These destinations include Guam, Saipan, and Cebu. But it remains unclear whether the carrier will offer flights to Cebu from Japan or Taiwan. 

Vanilla Air is planning to triple its fleet to 25 aircraft by 2020. It does not currently serve any destinations in the Philippines. However, its parent airline, ANA, operates two-daily flights from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila to Tokyo.

References: Nikkei Asian Review