This is from the Daily Tribune. This will be a big blow to Philippine Air and other Philippine airlines. Why they did not see this coming and take action to correct the situation is not clear. Other regional Philippine airlines will now probably not be able to expand as they had hoped.
This will give US airlines a huge advantage over Philippine rivals. I usually take Philippine Air Lines direct to Manila from Vancouver and back. I have never had any trouble although I have heard others complain. Some say PAL stands for Plane is Always Late! Service on PAL is always better than Air Canada in my experience!
Avoid RP aircraft, US advises citizens
By Michaela del Callar and Angie M. Rosales
The local airline industry expects a direct hit from the recent downgrading of the country to a Category 2 rating by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which was quickly followed yesterday by a United States government advisory on its citizens yesterday to shun Philippine carrier.
The advisory said Americans should avoid RP airline planes until the country meets international aviation safety standards.
In a warden message dated Jan. 15, 2008 that was posted on its Web site, the US Embassy in Manila said: “Whenever possible, Americans traveling to and from the Philippines should fly to their destinations on international carriers from countries whose civil aviation safety standards for the oversight of their air carrier operations are under the Federal Aviation Administration’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program.”
The country’s flag carrier Philippine Airlines Inc. (PAL) said restrictions imposed under the Category 2 rating will affect not just the aviation
industry but all other sectors, practically the entire economy, but most directly the tourism sector.
PAL, nevertheless, said it will continue to fly to the US, although under certain restrictions, despite the downgrading.
In a statement, PAL blamed the aviation agency Air Transportation Office (ATO) for the downgrade saying it reflected deficiencies in the agency’s oversight functions.
Despite the oversight, PAL has maintained an independent record of strict adherence to international safety standards, as reflected in PAL passing the IATA (International Air Transport Association) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) in 2007, it said.
IOSA is an internationally recognized and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control system of an airline.
“We hope the ATO will soon be able to rectify the assessed deficiencies in its air safety oversight functions so the country can revert to Category 1,” Bautista added.
Under a category 2 FAA rating, PAL is prohibited from increasing its 33 flights a week to the US and its territories and from changing the type or increasing the number of aircraft used on these routes. Also to be affected is the delivery, beginning 2009, of six brand-new Boeing 777-300ER airplanes, to be deployed by PAL on the trans-Pacific flights.
PAL said the country is expected to suffer from the negative perception that it is not a safe destination.
Last Dec. 26, Washington downgraded Philippine aviation standards to a lower category.
The US FAA revised the Philippines’ aviation safety oversight category from Category 1 to Category 2 due to “serious concerns” on the Philippine Air Transportation Office’s “oversight of air carrier operations.”
Under Category 2, the FAA assessed the Philippine Civil Aviation Authority as “not being in compliance” with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards for Philippine air carrier operations.
“While in Category 2, Philippine air carriers will be permitted to continue current operations to the United States, but will be under heightened FAA surveillance,” the US Embassy said.
With the “Open Skies” policy prevailing between the RP and the US, American carriers are free to fly to the Philippines with unrestricted destinations and frequencies, but local carriers will be denied the same access because of the FAA rating.
Hawaiian Airlines will soon be operating regular service to Manila, clearly showing how US carriers intend to take advantage of the situation.
“Other local airlines, like Cebu Pacific, will be stymied from pushing through with any plans to fly on US routes while the Category 2 is enforced,” it added.
“Being the only Philippine carrier to fly to the US, we have a responsibility to our passengers to maintain our US operations in spite of the Category 2 rating,” PAL president Jaime Bautista said.
All local airlines will be affected by the category 2 rating which requires PAL to maintain a status quo of its current service to the US.
“We lament FAA’s decision. We will do everything we can so our loyal trans-Pacific passengers will not be inconvenienced by any effects of Category 2,” Bautista said.
Bautista also expressed concern on the negative effect of Category 2 to PAL’s plans to open service to San Diego, Chicago, New York and Saipan.
Bautista added that PAL’s airplanes are currently maintained by Lufthansa Technik Philippines, an affiliate of the world’fs largest maintenance service provider Lufthansa Technik of Germany.
Aside from withholding PAL’s expansion plans to the US, the Category 2 rating is also expected to gravely affect inbound and outbound tourism traffic (including the balikbayan traffic that is PAL’s niche market), RP-US cargo traffic and investments inflow to the Philippines.
PAL currently flies to Los Angeles (11 flights a week), San Francisco (9), Las Vegas via Vancouver (5), Honolulu (3) and Guam (5).
PAL will only be permitted to add a flight or route if it wetleases an aircraft from an airline coming from a Category 1 country, as PAL did back in the mid-1990s. Under a wetlease agreement, PAL is charged for the use of another carrier’s aircraft, its crew, maintenance and insurance cost.
The reported downgrading of the country’s commercial aviation category yesterday drew strong suspicion from a staunch Palace ally in the Senate that this matter was deliberately disregarded by concerned transportation officials, as this would leave the government no option but to order the creation of a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), a public corporation whose revenues need not be remitted to the country’s coffers.
Administration Sen. Joker Arroyo floated this possibility, noting several questions arising from the report on the US FAA downgrade of the country.
“Were our civil aviation authorities aware of the impending downgrade and yet the Executive did not do anything to address FAA’s concerns? Why did the Executive not inform Congress of the need for remedial legislation? For one thing, during the current budget hearings, none of the government agencies involved in aviation asked for additional budget that they needed to meet FAA’s warnings. There was complete silence on the safety issues. Congress passed the budget they asked for,” Arroyo pointed out.
He added that the creation of the CAA as touted during the hearings was just what FAA asked for to forestall the downgrade.
“Or is it just a ruse so that another public corporation can be created that will collect its own revenues and spend it as it seems fit, without the need to remit its income to the National Treasury?” he asked.
Under this set-up, the senator said that airports and commercial aviation will be operated by two independent government corporations--the existing Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and the proposed CAA. Both will impose its own fees, collect revenues and disburse it without any government intervention, Arroyo noted.
Meanwhile, Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza yesterday ordered ATO Acting Assistant Secretary Daniel Dimagiba to immediately evaluate, review, and undertake measures and course of action to ensure compliance with the audit results and recommendations of the US FAA.
Mendoza also ordered ATO to immediately make the rectifications of the deficiencies identified in the International Aviation Safety Assessment conducted by the FAA in a bid to have the downgrade lifted.
Mendoza assured the public that the government will tap its available resources to ensure the lifting of the Category 2 rating of FAA.
Mendoza also appealed to Congress for the immediate passage of the bill creating the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, otherwise known as the Civil Aviation Authority Act of 2008, which is now being questioned by Senator Arroyo.
With regard to aviation regulations, the ATO has made adjustments in the area of regulations including preparation of a list of effective regulations and adoption of a policy on updating them to reflect developments in the industry and changes to ICAO standards.
On technical guidance, ATO has updated and centralized inspector files and improved their physical security. It developed effective training programs. It is also working with ICAO to arrange for hiring retired, qualified pilots from the national airline to serve as inspectors.
On licensing and certification obligations, the ATO has reviewed all carrier licensing files for completeness. It has also organized files in the technical library and improving procedures of the licensing examination board. It has improved the guidance on issuance of airframe and powerplant certificates, including regularizing the period of issuance.
On surveillance obligations, the ATO has revised the airworthiness handbook. The ATO is also working with airport directors to ensure access of inspectors. It is also revising and consolidating the surveillance systems and briefing personnel on their responsibility. Further, it is continuously updating the list of maintenance facilities, establishing controls, and ensuring that only qualified inspectors conduct inspections.
In effect, the ATO has addressed and is continuously addressing the other deficiencies as per the FAA safety audit, it was claimed.
Tesa Gaila Medina and AFP