Hongkong Express cancels Laoag flights

August 27, 2010

Laoag - Hongkong Express, an airline based in Hong Kong has announced indefinite suspension of twice weekly flights between Hongkong and Laoag after the Hong Kong government issued a travel ban to the country Tuesday as a direct consequence of hostage killings in Manila.

Ronal Estabillo, manager of the Laoag International Airport, said they were notified of the flight suspension Thursday. Its last flight carried Hong Kong nationals out of the country.

There was no mention of the reason behind the suspension but Estabillo was aware of a travel ban imposed by Chinese authorities on Tuesday in the aftermath of the bungled rescue attempt of the Chinese hostages and the consequent flight cancellations by its passengers.

Meanwhile, Milagros Gonzales, Ilocos Norte provincial tourism officer, said that all bookings in two major hotels in Laoag have been cancelled since Tuesday.

She said Hongkong tourists have been steadily coming to Laoag before the Manila bloodbath. At least 1,200 Hongkong nationals visit the city monthly for rest and recreation purposes. Most of the tourists visit Fort Ilocandia to play in the casino.

Gonzales adds the only other international flight from Kaoshiung, Taiwan to Laoag is expected to be cancelled as well in response to the travel ban imposed by Chinese authorities to the Philippines. Around 200 Taiwanese nationals visit the city on a monthly basis.

PAL Holds High Hope to its Low Cost Subsidiary

August 27, 2010

Low cost subsidiary Airphil Express is the answer of Philippine Airlines to Cebu Pacific's dominance in the country and for PAL Holdings to remain competitive in the domestic air travel market says its Executive Officer.

According to PAL President Jaime J. Bautista, the airline had no plans to cater to the low-cost market. Instead, its sister firm Air Philippines, is being groomed to compete in the low-cost scene.

Bautista said the company’s Legacy carrier business model no longer works well in attracting customers for the domestic market, unlike budget carriers whose mode of operations are based on low cost carriers patterned after Southwest of the US or Easyjet or Ryanair of Europe.

“Growth is in the low-cost model,” Bautista said in a recent interview. “That’s why our rival Cebu Pacific is growing very fast.”

As part of its plans to beef up Air Philippines’ operations, Bautista said majority of its narrow-bodied fleet will be transferred to its LCC subsidiary. PAL recently transferred three of its 150-seater Airbus A320 aircraft to Airphil Express with three more expected in October and November.

A total of six A320s will join the AirPhil Express fleet this year. The first two are being operated by the airline on lease from Philippine Airlines, while the other four will be new aircraft delivered from Airbus during the second half of the year, which is part of the original PAL 320 orders.

"We want to position AirPhil Express as a low-cost carrier offering quality service," said David Lim, President of the airline. "The modernization of our fleet will enable us to increase market share while the industry braces for the eventual rebound."

PAL will be left with 9 Airbus 320 planes, which makes up bulk of its narrow body fleet of 18 jets. Over the next three years, Air Philippines would eventually operate all of PAL's 18 Airbus 320 aircraft to bolster its domestic and international operations.

However, Bautista assured that PAL’s operations would not be cannibalized as they will be retaining the wide bodied aircraft for its domestic and international operations, saying further that there would always be a market for passengers that want more luxury when they fly than what is offered by budget airlines.

Bautista also said they will have four more brand-new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft delivered starting in 2012 to cover more points across Asia Pacific and Australia, the Middle East and North America. PAL expects to fly to India within next year for a thrice a week service using Airbus 330. According to him, the airline will mount three direct flights a week to New Delhi from March 27 2011, and another three weekly triangular service via Bangkok for a total 6 weekly service. The airline has local traffic rights between Bangkok and Delhi sector.

The new 777 planes is expected to replace the airlines ageing Boeing 747-400 jets as the airline’s flagship aircraft which are due for retirement in 2016.

Orbis brings sight to Manila

August 25, 2010

New York - The world's only eye surgical and training hospital with wings will touch down in Manila to deliver sight-saving surgeries to those suffering with blindness and visual impairments, and to conduct skills exchange programs with the local ophthalmic community.

ORBIS International is an international non-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) focusing on prevention of blindness and the treatment of eye diseases in developing countries. It is best known for its "flying eye hospital", presently a McDonnell Douglas DC-10.

The Flying Eye Hospital is scheduled to arrive on August 27, 2010 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport for a two week Ophthalmic Skills Exchange Programs sponsored by Federal Express.

"The support we receive from FedEx enables the delivery of improved eye care services to numerous people, while bringing awareness of avoidable blindness to many more," said Dr. Hunter Cherwek, medical director of ORBIS International.

The event will run from August 30 until September 10th where advanced training will be offered in ophthalmic care, focusing on pediatric eye diseases, cataract, oculoplastics and medical retina. Surgeries to treat and prevent blindness will be provided free of charge onboard the DC-10 flying hospital.

The Flying Eye Hospital Program will also increase the clinical and surgical abilities of local eye care providers.

Studies show that around 100 children in the Philippines lose their sight every week, making about 680,000 blind Filipinos.

According to the World Health Organization, one-third of the world's 45 million blind and half of the world's 1.5 million blind children live in Southeast Asia. Of the 12 people who become blind every minute in the world, 4 are from Southeast Asia. With one quarter of the global population and one-third of the world's blind, Southeast Asia has a disproportionate burden of blindness. The blind persons in this region are among the poorest in the world and the most marginalized in society.

Since its first flight in 1982, Orbis has trained more than 234,000 ophthalmologists, nurses, biomedical engineers and other health care workers , who in turn have treated an estimated 17.5 million people worldwide. It has conducted 550 programs in 82 countries.

The Orbis mission first landed in the Philippines in 1982, and has been back eight times since then, the last time being in 2003, performing around 200 operations and screening some 300 Filipinos.

FedEx has been a sponsor of ORBIS for more than 20 years delivering the gift of sight to countless individuals throughout the developing world. In 2006, FedEx renewed its global sponsorship with a US $5.5 million commitment, which includes financial, logistical and operational support for ORBIS and its Flying Eye Hospital through 2011.

PAL Strike Imminent

Foreign airlines not interested to fill the slack

August 24, 2010

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is having a hard time finding foreign airlines to fly international routes that are likely to be affected by the imminent strike at Philippine Airlines (PAL) as it prepares contingency plans for a possible disruption of air travel services in the coming months particularly to the United States.

DOTC Secretary Jose de Jesus admitted there will be a “real serious temporary disruption" because the other airlines that will be tapped to replace the routes that could be affected by a PAL strike could not change their schedules overnight.

Cathay Pacific Flights?

CAB Deputy Executive Director Porvenir Porciuncula said they have been talking to other carriers, particularly Cathay Pacific which served domestic destinations for PAL and if they can pick up the slack for PAL's domestic and international points.

“Some airlines say they can take up part of PAL’s operations, but most say their resources are already overstretched just servicing their own routes,” Porciuncula said.

“What we’re asking from them is very temporary but a lot of them are not so willing to commit,” Porciuncula said.

Secretary De Jesus confirmed that the government was ready to grant special permits not just to Cathay Pacific but to Middle Eastern, North American and Asian carriers that serve routes similar to many of PAL’s international flights.

Domestic Interest

Meanwhile, two small airlines are willing to stand in for PAL should a labor strike prevents it from serving some of its routes Porciuncula adds. Spirit of Manila Airlines and Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAIR) had informed the Civil Aviation Authority that they were interested in taking over some of PAL’s domestic routes in case of a disruption in flight services.

The government had already identified Philippine Airlines’ domestic and international routes that were also being served by small local airlines, or where they had rights to operate. Spirit of Manila Airlines has signified its willingness and capability to immediately expand its operations, while SEAir is willing to provide service from October.

Spirit of Manila operates chartered services between Clark and Taiwan using two MD83 aircraft with a seating capacity of 156, while Seair is awaiting delivery of two Airbus 320 with 180 seats from Tiger Airways for major domestic operations.

PAL earlier said last week that it was ready to deploy administrative and other staff to stand in for any striking cabin crew. Its passengers may also be transferred to the carrier’s 134 partner airlines across its network.

Seair to launch A320 Service

By Lenie Lectura

August 23, 2010

Southeast Asian Airlines (Seair) has informed the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) that it will revive a plan to lease Airbus aircraft from Singapore-based Tiger Airways to expand its fleet.

Seair has filed an application with the CAB in 2008 to lease two Airbus A320s from Tiger Airways.

“We already approved the lease of two Airbus [planes] way back in 2008 but because of the global slump, Seair’s expansion plan was shelved. Now, it is reviving the plan because the market is growing and many of [the country’s] airlines are looking at expanding,” said Carmelo Arcilla, CAB executive director, yesterday.

Last July, the airline purchased three Dornier 328 turbo-prop aircraft to be used to boost its operations in the growing markets of Batanes, Boracay and Romblon.

Seair president Avelino Zapanta earlier said the airline recorded a net loss for 2009 but vowed to do better this year.

“Although we have an operating income in 2009, we are still down in terms of bottom line last year. Everybody lost money, net income wise. In 2008, we faced fuel crisis which have impacted our profitability. In terms of operating income, we were able to do positively unlike in 2008 we were not even able to do a positive operating income,” said Zapanta.

This year, Seair is looking at improving [its performance], said Zapanta. “In terms of profitability, we will try to break even this year,” he said.

Seair transported 132,416 passengers as of end-June this year. Its load factor in the first six months of the year reached 79 percent.

Earlier, Tiger partnered with TripleStar Travel and Tours to be its general sales agent in the Philippines in a bid to entice more travelers to take the budget airline.

TripleStar was created and spun off two years ago out of Seair tour desk services. It introduced the popular Leisure Escape Packages of the airliner.

As Tiger Airways’ agent, TripleStar will market seats to Filipino travelers and businesses.

PAL reports profitability

But Earnings alarming

August 21, 2010

Plagued by labor disputes, and threats of imminent strike from its flight and ground crews, Philippine Airlines is reporting a $31.6 million profit in the April-June period, down from $35.5 million in the same period last year.

The figure was down by $3.9 million or 11% from the same period last year.

"PAL must swallow bitter pills and handle its labor issues with utmost care to survive amidst the difficult and cut-throat operating environment," an airline statement quoted its president Jaime Bautista as saying.

The carrier said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) that it posted revenues of $426.7 million for the first quarter of its fiscal year 2010-2011, up by 30% over last year’s $ 327.7 million.

However, expenses surged 37% to $391.6 million. The company reported total expenses of $391.6 million, up by $106.1 million from $ 285.5 million last year.

Jet fuel expense rose by $55 million during the first quarter with fuel prices at an average of $100.47 per barrel from $70.28 per barrel in 2009, which continues to be the airline’s biggest operating expense.

The airline also reported a decrease in other income, by $47.5 million to $15.4 million as compared to $62.9 million registered last year.

"Despite encouraging numbers on account of the peak travel season, PAL is bracing for lower passenger volumes during the airline’s ’lean season’ usually between August to November," said PAL President Jaime J. Bautista.

Despite the current problems the airline is in, PAL remains focused on continuing efforts to generate more revenues particularly on its international network and control costs.

Domestic traffic up 10% on first half

5J dominates Philippine Airspace

August 21, 2010

With 4.088 million passengers carried for the first half, Low Cost Airline Cebu Pacific dominates domestic airspace by cornering a market share of 48.75 percent, data from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) disclosed on Friday.

CAB said the volume of domestic air passengers rose by 10.45 percent in the first half of the year. The Board reported that there were 8. 39 million domestic air passengers in the first semester, higher than the 7.59 million passengers last year.

Top on the list was Cebu Pacific which carried 4.088 million passengers during the six-month period, an increase of 13 percent from the 3.614 million passengers recorded in the same period last year.

Troubled carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) follows the list with 2.88 million passengers in the first half, a decrease of almost 10 percent from its record of 3.207 million passengers in the same period a year ago. PAL launched its low cost subsidiary in March in a bid to counter the growing market share of Cebu Pacific.

The strategy brought Air Philippines to more than double its market share, which had 667,686 passengers carried in the six-month period as against 254,244 passengers made in 2009.

Zest Air was relegated back to fourth place but still posted a climb in its passenger record in the first half to 616,058, up from 433,576 passengers in the January to June period last year.

Southeast Asian Airlines also grew by carrying 132,416 passengers in the six-month period while it had only 83,132 passengers a year ago.

The CAB said it expects domestic air travel to grow at double-digit rate, driven by stiff competition between local airlines and lower fares.

Pacific Flier re-organizes

Re-Launch unknown

August 19, 2010

Clark - With new ownership and new organization, Pacific Flier intends to operate a regular scheduled flights soon with new type of aircraft, said to be either a Boeing 737-800 or an Airbus 320, from the butchered charter service they previously had.

It is now clearly considered an Australian Airline operating in Micronesia whose majority owner is Australian Grant Vickers, the airline’s executive chairman and president.

Vickers previously share ownership of the airlines with another Australian Reginald Free and New Zealander Rex Banks who was listed then as CEO of the airline before he left.

Pacific Flier admitted that they don't have traffic rights to Guam and Manila except the regular charter certificates they hold which restrict operations of their business.

The Philippines' Civil Aviation Board (CAB) confirmed that there is no traffic rights between Clark and Guam, and there is no air talks scheduled within the year for such services.

CAB said the airline may have to fly to Manila where slots are available if it secures the approval from the US DOT to fly Guam and Koror in Palau.

The carrier said the “difficulties in securing traffic rights led to substantial trading losses.”

"it has not been able to secure traffic rights for its scheduled flights since it began regular charter flights in April." the statement adds.

The airline also admitted that it “launched operations prematurely” and that it is “foolhardy to continue to operate on parameters now proven to be inappropriate.”

“The launch was done at the time to meet the requirements of major potential tuna shippers and alleged confirmed rights to Asia. History will show that the necessary traffic rights were not forthcoming nor were the perishable shipments.” the statements said.

The airline said it will continue to pursue applications with U.S. and Philippine authorities for scheduled traffic rights.

“A complete review of the schedule, timetable and route structure is currently being carried out,” Pacific Flier said.

The carrier, which had been in service for four months, cancelled all its flights last week “until further notice.”

The date of the re-launch is unknown.

Navy chopper crashed in Zamboanga

Two Pilots dead

August 18, 2010

A Philippine Navy Bolkow helicopter, BO-105C (PNH411) crashed in the sea between Great Santa Cruz and Little Santa Cruz islands near Zamboanga City around 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Rear Admiral Alexander Pama, chief of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said the helicopter was on a joint training exercise with US forces when it crashed after developing engine trouble some two nautical miles off Santa Cruz island.

Pama identified the fallen pilots as Lt. Tristan Joseph Corpuz and co-pilot Lt. Gerald Tamayo.

The helicopter was on a routine flight mission and was being used to document Inshore Combat Tactics Training when it crashed.

Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo said the helicopter had 2 pilots, a crew member and 2 passengers on board.

The 2 passengers and crew member identified as PO2 Rodolfo Pataueg, PO2 Noel Ridad and PO2 Abdon Martinez were able to jump off the chopper before it hit the water and has been rescued and declared safe at Camp Navarro Gen Hospital.

The 38 year old helicopter was manufactured by Bölkow of Stuttgart, Germany. The company is now called Eurocopter after it was bought in 1991. The Bo 105C helicopter was developed in 1972 and the Philippine Ministry of Defence bought 14 models in 1974, including 10 105SC under PAF , for search and Rescue, recon & liaison duties. They were assembled under license by Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation.

Pilot Drained PAL graze A320 off Kalibo

Aborts Landing

August 18, 2010

A Philippine Airlines PR 321 flight (RP-C8613) bound for the Kalibo International Airport returned and declared an emergency landing in Manila after belly grazing the airport perimeter fence which cause hydraulic explosion in the right main landing gears while attempting to land in Aklan.

The flight with 127 passengers and 6 crew landed safely at NAIA after its original landing schedule at Kalibo around 9:45 a.m. was aborted Tuesday.

The pilot was able to taxi the plane to Bay 22 parking area where the passengers and crew were off-loaded. The airline said the airplane sustained minor damage on its belly and hydraulic systems which can easily be repaired.

The aircraft was piloted by pilot Capt. Miguel Gomez whose manned plane approach the runway lower than what was indicated in the PAPI lights.

PAL said the pilots aborted the approach because of heavy downpour and low visibility at Kalibo Airport.

A resident in the area said he was surprised to see the plane flew so low before it hit the fence and blew a passing tricycle a few meters off the road. The driver and passenger of the tricycle, couple Richard and Margie Rubin, were rushed to the St. Gabriel Hospital in Kalibo for treatment.

PAL explained in a statement that the misapproach was due to "poor visibility" at the Kalibo airport. But an airport insider at Kalibo who doesnt want to be named because he is not authorized to speak said an earlier plane was able to land without problems, and hinted that the airlines' lack of qualified pilots maybe showing off.

It still not clear whether the airports new ILS facility was used by the airline in doing the approach to the runway.

The affected passengers were transferred to another aircraft leaving NAIA at around 1:03 p.m. and arrived at Kalibo around 2:13 p.m.

The aircraft underbelly is undergoing thorough inspection at the hangar of Lufthansa Technik Philippines (LTP).

Pacific Flier going, gone...

Calls it Quits?

August 17, 2010

Koror – Palau-based airline Pacific Flier of Aviation Matters has suspended all flights operations to and from Koror last week on account of poor passenger sales and operating losses after it failed to secure landing rights to Guam.

President Johnson Toribiong of Palau said that the airline which has only been in service for four months has cancelled all flights “until further notice.”

Its last flight was made to the Philippines' Manila-Clark airport on friday, August 13, 2010 with resumption to its service likely to be nil.

The airline has been asking the US DOT for a foreign air carrier permit otherwise known as the "402 permit" to provide non-scheduled charter flight from Koror to Guam, as well as request for exemptions to title 49 USC §40109, which codifies the US Federal Aviation act of 1956.

Generally, a charter flight should not exceed 6 flights for the duration of the year, thus, an exemption is filed to mount more than 6 flights.

Its exemption permit was provisionally granted by US DOT on February 25, 2010 with flight scheduled on June 15 to Guam, until DOT found discripancies to its ownership structure who is mostly Australian nationals.

But the airline has said on its website that it was merely suspending its operation due to some traffic rights and access issues at Koror.

Neil Hansford, Vice President for operations, does not state further what those restrictions were. Instead, the airline "merely awaits the approval to sell all sectors without compromise", which is already in doubt considering the DOT recall of authority for Guam charter flights.

Pacific Flier applied to the US DOT on July 1 to begin scheduled services between Palau and Guam. The application is still pending and the time for its resumption uncertain as these are totally dependent on US regulators approval.

The airline's website however states that it is confident on the resumption of the service.

Hansford said it will pursue applications with U.S. and Philippine authorities for scheduled traffic rights. The airline was previously operating regular charter flights between Palau, Brisbane, Guam and Clark starting in April.

"Services will be relaunched with new equipment as soon as regulators in all jurisdictions agree to the new aircraft fleet to be operated on their routes. Hopefully co-operation will be forthcoming with the 3 regulators involved" the airline statement said.

Currently, Continental Micronesia operates a triangular Boeing 737-800 service along the sectors applied by Pacific Flier and will most likely have an equivalent aircraft type if their service is approved.

"Should satisfactory operating environments not be able to be negotiated PacificFlier will consider changing its route network or the level of planned rotations to some ports". the statement adds.

"Replacement aircraft have been sourced and applications will be made to regulators to place the new aircraft on the charter and scheduled programmes. There will be a change in aircraft type," says PacificFlier.

The airline operates a single aircraft, Airbus A310-300 (CS-TEI) with 18 business and 176 economy passenger seats, wet leased from Hi Fly-Transportes Aereos, S.A registered in Portugal.

To stay afloat, the company has been operating mostly cargo flights to Manila- Clark to reduce operating losses and has cancelled some flights in the past months due to poor passenger and cargo loads. But its cost saving measure was still not enough to save the airline from economic collapse due to regulatory issues.

Pacific Flier said the “difficulties in securing traffic rights led to substantial trading losses.”

The airline initially flew three times a week to Koror from Clark but later on was reduced to two times a week until the suspension announcements.

ATI declares emergency landing at NAIA

August 17, 2010

A chartered Air Transport International plane flying from Tokyo to Singapore airport made an emergency landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) yesterday on a reported fire to its cargo compartment.

The Douglas DC-8-70 combi plane with registration number N721CX was carrying 21 passengers and was flying over Philippine airspace when the crew reported a fire alarm in the cargo hold.

The airport's Fire Department however found no trace of smoke or burning heat inside the plane after the aircraft landed safely according to Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Honrado.

Honrado said the control tower received the distress call at 8:50 a.m. from the pilot, Capt. Michael Martino requesting permission to land at NAIA on account of the purported emergency.

The aircraft landed safely at NAIA around 9:15 a.m without incident and taxied on its own power before it docked at Naia Terminal 1 remote parking bay where the passengers disembarked.

Inspection was thereafter conducted by fire experts inside the cargo bay but found no indications of fire in any of the airplane’s sensitive parts.

Meanwhile its passengers waited at terminal 1 before the aircraft was cleared to fly again and was directed to dock at Boarding Gate 17.

The U.S. registered aircraft was cleared safe by NAIA authorities around 1 p.m. and the plane took off at runway 06 around 2:05 in the afternoon.

CAB approves new Singapore entitlements

By Lenie Lectura

August 16, 2010

THE Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) last week awarded Singapore entitlements to four airlines, fielding additional flights to one of the busy destinations in the region.

The four airlines are Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Zest Air and Air Philippines, said CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla.

PAL got 700 seat entitlements, which translate to four weekly flights. From 28 flights per week, the flag carrier can now mount up to 32 flights a week to Singapore.

Cebu Pacific, which flies to Singapore 25 times a week, was awarded 908 seats, equivalent to six flights a week. The Gokongwei-owned airline can now field 32 flights per week to Singapore.

Candice Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and distribution, earlier said the airline asked for an additional 2,520 seats for its Manila-Singapore flights to enable the low-cost carrier to add a twice-a-day flight.

“This is was what we had originally asked for. We have used up all our entitlements, whereas Air Philippines and Zest Air still have rights which they have not used,” she said.

Air Philippines, which is 99-percent owned by the Lucio Tan group, and Zest Air, formerly Asian Spirit, can now mount daily flights to Singapore after the CAB awarded each of them seat entitlements.

“We gave them seats to Singapore which will allow them to operate daily flights,” said Arcilla in a phone interview.

Zest Air was supposed to start mounting flights to Singapore early in the year but was faced with delays in the delivery of aircraft. The airline’s vice president for communications, Butch Rodriguez, said Zest Air already has entitlements to Singapore which authorizes it to mount five weekly flights. The CAB awarded it two more entitlements to Singapore.

“We were informed that their aircraft has arrived last July,” the CAB official said.

Arcilla, however, warned that the CAB would confiscate the Singapore entitlements if Zest Air will not use them in six months.

“Our use-it or lose-it policy is strictly enforced. If any of them fail to use it in six months from the award of the entitlements then we will have to get them back,” said the CAB official.

Zest Air will use an Airbus A320 to field its Manila-Singapore route.

Rodriguez said the airline would have another aircraft delivered in October.

“We intend to launch Singapore [flights] by early November. We have 90 days to market the new destination,” Rodriguez earlier said.

The amended air services (ASA) agreement with Singapore sealed in May produced 2,647 weekly seats for Philippine airlines to use for Manila-Singapore flights.

“There is really a demand for the Singapore route because the place is not only a tourist destination but also meant for business transactions or activities, and we also have overseas Filipino workers there,” added Arcilla.

The CAB is part of the Philippine air panel which negotiates for traffic rights with other countries. The other panel members include the Departments of Transportation and Communications, of Foreign Affairs, of Tourism, and of Trade and Industry, and representatives from the airline companies.

Since the start of the year the Philippine air panel has inked air pacts with Bahrain and Turkey. Up next are China, Indonesia and Hong Kong, said Arcilla.

CAAP suspends 4 flying schools

By Rudy Santos
August 14, 2010

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has ordered the suspension of four aviation schools in Metro Manila for failing to comply with audit procedures conducted by the aviation regulatory body.

CAAP director general Alfonso Cusi said a student pilot in one of the four schools was reported to have logged 55 hours’ flying time in two days, a feat he described as “glaringly impossible.”

He identified two of the schools as Strike Wing Aviation Training Center Inc. and the National Aviation Specialist Academy Corp. but refused to name the two others, saying their applications were denied outright because “they failed to conform with certain standards.”

He said of the 58 flying schools registered with CAAP, 10 were audited, four of which were later suspended. The rest are still undergoing assessment.

Cusi said the student pilot who logged 55 hours’ flying time is a foreign student. He added that both the school and the students are being investigated for conniving in an apparent attempt to expedite the pilot’s training so he would be issued a flying license at the shortest time possible.

“CAAP investigation revealed that there were cases of student pilots who are out of the country but were logging flights in their flight log,” he said.

Cusi said some aviation schools offer “a package deal of $30,000, where a student would be offered ground-schooling and a private pilot’s license after logging about 40 flying hours. A commercial pilot’s license would need about 200 flying hours, although at this stage, the pilot is not yet ready to be employed in any airline company.”

The CAAP chief said the country’s schools were audited after Philippine-issued flying licenses and certificates lost their face value in foreign countries following revelations that these licenses were issued through illegal means.

EU Safety Re-audit set for October

Is CAAP Ready?

August 11,2010

The European Union's European Air Safety Agency (EASA) is coming to the Philippines, and the Philippines' Civil Aviation Authority has less than three months to correct the flaws that plagued the country's civil aviation for it to be delisted as a country with Significant Safety Concerns (SSC).

Three experts from the EASA is scheduled to arrive in in October 18 for a five day evaluation of the country's compliance to security and safety standards which it found to be wanting when inspections was held by ICAO last year.

Alfonso G. Cusi, CAA Director General, said his office has asked the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to provide a detailed agenda for the visit on October 18-22.

The results of the inspection will be discussed and reviewed by the EU’s air safety committee in Brussels, Belgium, sometime in November which meeting date is yet to be determined.

Cusi hopes the inspectors would appreciate the efforts made by the agency in improving its compliance status to international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

“We are ready for them,” says Cusi of its chances.

Cusi said they have addressed 77 out of the 88 safety concerns listed by the European Union and will submit a corrective action plan for the EU regulators to evaluate.

The visit has been scheduled in October because the European Union Air Safety Conference is scheduled in November. We’re hoping to get positive feedback from them so that the representatives could relay that to other union members in the conference," he said.

In April this year, the EU included the Philippines from the list of countries having Significant Safety Concern (SSC) relating to the oversight functions on civil aviations which was being implemented by the CAA of the Philippines.

Blacklisting has the effect of banning its operating airlines from flying in the EU's 27 member-states airspace following the findings by ICAO in October 2009 that it failed to regulate its aviation industry to the detriment of the safety of its passengers, foreign or domestic.

Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific failed to convinced the EASA committee members in June regarding its upgraded security and safety procedures because the airlines cannot guarantee that the government is doing its part in the inspection process.

The European regulator however deferred its ruling of making an exemption in November until after it conducts compliance audit of the Philippines aviation body.

"We are also hoping to get clearance for the two major carriers of the Philippines which are Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific," Mr. Cusi adds.

Meanwhile, CAAP announced that on Sept. 2-3, the president of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Roberto Gonzalez, will visit Manila to discuss corrective plans being implemented by the agency to improve its compliance status.

PAL loses damage claim against ex pilot

August 10, 2010

Philippine Airlines lose its civil case against one of its A320 pilots for its failure to substantiate claim for the cost of its training.

The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the ruling of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City on June 19, 2008, which dismissed civil damages filed by PAL against pilot captain Antonio Halagueña.

PAL was seeking P1.2 million compensation and damages for his alleged failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the training agreement he signed with the airline company.

CA Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro dismissed Philippine Airlines' (PAL) charges of alleged breach of contract on grounds of previous payments by the pilot and lack of supporting evidence on the part of PAL to justify its other claims.

The Court said PAL filed the suit before the trial court to seek payment of the balance on the pilot's training on May 9, 2005 or almost two years after he paid the airline P401,480 representing full monetary obligations under the training agreement.

Court documents disclosed that PAL hired Halagueña as pilot trainee for A320 on March 11, 2002 and offered him the training program that it provides for all its pilots wishing to operate its newer aircraft.Halagueña underwent training until May 19, 2002, after which he qualified as captain of its Airbus A320. The training contract containing the terms and conditions of the training program was signed by Halagueña on March 22, 2003.

Halagueña tendered his resignation to the airline a year later on October 31, 2003 which took effect immediately. Consequently, he failed to report for his flight and reserve pilot assignments from that date and was declared by the airline to have abandoned its post on January 15, 2004.

PAL Representative Captain Johnny Andrews later told Halagueña through his wife, Patricia, that her husband would be cleared from financial liability if he reimbursed the amount of P401,480.

On November 24, 2003, PAL received from Halagueña's wife the amount of P401,480 as full payment for his monetary obligations under the training agreement.

PAL however insisted that Halagueña resignation was a breach of their agreement and demanded the pilot to pay the balance of P252,951 representing the expenses for his training plus 14% interest per annum until it is paid. It also demanded reimbursement for expenses it incurred to train another pilot amounting to P1.05 million.

Halagueña ignored PAL's demands,prompting the airline to file a damage suit before the Makati RTC.

The CA also ruled "Thus, under the principle of estoppel by laches," PAL has already waived its right to collect the supposed balance amount.

Estoppel by laches is an equitable remedy in court described as the failure of the party to assert its right in due time, thus, leading to "a presumption that the party entitled to assert it has abandoned to defend it or has agreed to the correctness of the resolution."

"All things considered, we find and so rule that the wealth of evidence in this case sustains the conclusion of the RTC that Halagueña is no longer liable to PAL. Hence, there is no reason to depart from the said findings," says the Court of Appeals.

FASAP declines 80 million offer

Strike Imminent

August 10, 2010

The Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP) declined Philippine Airlines P80-million package to settle their CBA for 2005-2010 because the airline refused to talk about its mandatory retirement age policy, and instead opted that the attendants’ main complaint about retirement age should be discussed only in the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations for 2010-2015.

There was no meeting of minds at the NCMB because the airlines wanted closure to the 2005-2010 CBA by offering P80 million settlement, while FASAP wanted the airline to lift its retirement age policy for being discriminatory. FASAP is also contesting the “no-motherhood policy” of PAL, which bars a pregnant flight attendant from receiving any salary or allowance and travel benefits while she is on leave.

On the retirement age issue, PAL President Jaime Bautista said there was “more than enough time” to discuss the retirement age provisions and issues in the next CBA negotiations and they want closure to the previous one that has been a source of conflict between the two parties.

Under the existing CBA, male and female flight attendants hired before November 1996 will be retired once they reach 60 and 55, respectively, and those hired starting 1996 will be retired at age 45. Those hired after November 2000 will be retired at the age of 40.

FASAP has opposed PAL’s implementation of a mandatory retirement age of 40 for both male and female flight attendants, claiming it’s “discriminatory.”

“They said they want to talk about the retirement age in the next CBA, which, for us, is simply unacceptable. It should be settled in this CBA negotiation,” FASAP president Roberto Anduiza said.

ANA flies to Manila

Schedules flight on March 2011

August 7, 2010

TOKYO - Japan's second biggest airline, All Nippon Airways Company (ANA) announced Friday that it will re-launch services between Narita International Airport and Jakarta next January and inaugurate its first-ever Narita-NAIA route in March 2011.

The carrier will offer round-trip flights daily on both routes as part of the alliance goal to strengthen its presence in Asia. ANA is a Star alliance member.

The new route expansion will strengthen ANA's Southeast Asia network as it compliment its connections with Star alliance partner United Airlines for destinations to the United States. United Airlines is not allowed to fly Manila and Jakarta from tokyo.

ANA resumes flights to the Indonesian capital for the first time in more than 12 years.

ANA currently operates flights from Narita to Bangkok, Singapore and Ho-Chi-Min City and recently announced the launch of two additional services from Haneda to Bangkok and Singapore which will start in October.

the airline will operate a total of nine daily flights that service seven routes to five Southeast Asia destinations.

Meanwhile, the airline said it will suspend flights between Nagoya's Chubu International Airport and Shanghai's Pudong airport from Oct. 31 until next spring.

The new network will provide an increase in the number of choices available to passengers traveling between Japan and Southeast Asian destinations and will improve the convenience of transit passengers connecting at Narita to routes to and from North America.

Corporate slavery

The thing about PAL

By Solita Collas-Monsod

August 6, 2010

FROM THE initial stories that came out in the press, one got the impression that the pilots who had left PAL were the bad guys. The stories, sourced from PAL management, went that the pilots were earning oodles of money (by local standards anyway—P500,000 a month was the figure being given for a senior pilot). Their training (“costing millions”), which had made them so highly skilled and highly priced in the first place, had been paid for by the company. And yet they left for greener pastures, and with nary a by-your-leave or backward look to boot, leaving behind unpaid debts to the company, forcing the airline to cancel scheduled flights, causing the passengers great inconvenience, reducing tourism, thus jeopardizing the economy. Such greedy, ungrateful, thoughtless, unpatriotic wretches was the structural message of these tales.

The PAL management, on the other hand, were the good guys in this version of the story. Although the pilots had broken the law and their contracts, which required them to give a six-month notice before leaving, the company was willing to forgive and forget all and would not press any charges or impose any sanctions as long as the pilots would come back. Structural message: management was not only reasonable, but ready to bend backward for the national good.

Unfortunately for the PAL spinners, the story was too big to be controlled by the usual methods of “envelopmental” journalism and the threat of advertising withdrawal. So the “bad guys” were able to get their own version across.

In this version, the pilots left because they saw how PAL had treated some of their colleagues, and weren’t about to wait for the same treatment to be meted out to them. Specifically, they saw their colleagues, both senior and junior, arbitrarily declared “redundant” and therefore retrenched/terminated, at about the same time that a couple of PAL airplanes were turned over to Air Philippines (a sister company). The retrenched pilots were then offered jobs at Air Phil, but at markedly lower (reportedly half of their former pay) salaries, because they had lost their seniority and were considered new hires. When even more PAL planes were rumored to be readied for transfer to its sister company, the pilots scrambled for jobs being offered abroad.

At first, PAL management pooh-poohed this version, and said (I heard it myself in a TV interview) that the pilots in question were not terminated but merely assigned to Air Phil on a “temporary” basis. But in the face of the first-person accounts that were being presented to the public and in Malacañang, and the fact that more and more pilots are planning to join their colleagues abroad, PAL presumably had to change its tune. So that yesterday’s headline was “PAL vows to stop moving pilots to Air Philippines.”

The above example of mendacity does not seem to be unique. The P500,000 a month salary figure quoted above—which fed the impression that pilots are greedy sons-of-bitches—is equally spurned by the pilots themselves. I talked to three pilots of varying seniority, who shared with me what they earn at PAL, and the figures, all in, averaged P350,000. Furthermore, their training, “costing millions,” turned out to be P1.9 million, but since this is a figure given in a PAL contract, the pilots feel that even this is an exaggeration, for which they are required to give five years of service.

Then there is the matter of the pilots leaving without the requisite notice, as claimed by PAL. If they did, it may be because of any or all of these reasons (again, from first-person accounts under similar circumstances): one is that PAL refused to accept their letter of resignation on the grounds that only a 30-day notice was given (per the Labor Code) and not the 180 days specified in their contract. (Anyone who reads that contract will see how onerous the terms are.) The pilots point out that the 180-day notice requirement is not a law (contrary to what was originally stated in the media, presumably courtesy of PAL). I checked this out with Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, asking her to cite the law. There is none. What is there is a memorandum circular from the POEA Board citing critical mission skills as reason for the 180-day notice—and she elaborated that this is binding only for pilots who are recruited in the Philippines—which is presumably why these pilots signed their contracts abroad.

A second reason is that PAL allegedly makes the lives of the pilots who give requisite notice a living hell: they are given the worst assignments, and their pay is withheld, supposedly while the company is making a determination of how much the pilot may be owing the company—which leaves the pilot, who has a family to support, in dire financial straits.

Apparently, if the pilots’ stories are to be believed (and I will take their word over management’s any time), PAL does not hesitate to use this time to undermine the pilot’s status with his prospective employer (what one may call a negative letter of reference), which has sometimes resulted in the withdrawal of the offer of employment; and/or to level some complaint against the pilot to “cooperative” immigration authorities or to the POEA or the NBI that will effectively stop his departure.

Let’s get real here. If the labor problems of PAL are limited to its pilots, maybe, just maybe it could be the pilots’ fault. But PAL has problems with its flight crews and ground crews as well. Corporate family? Corporate slavery, more like it. -- PDI

Zest Airways flies to San Fernando

August 6, 2010

Low cost airline Zest Airways, (Zest Air) will start flying Manila-San Fernando in La Union beginning today using the MA60 aircraft which could seat 56 passengers on a thrice a week service.

For its inaugural flight, Zest Air will leave the Manila domestic airport early at 1:30 pm and will arrive at the San Fernando airport at 2:50 pm, officially signaling the resumption of the domestic flight operations after SEAIR ceased flying the Manila-San Fernando route last July 1.

Regular flights from Manila is scheduled every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday departing Manila at 1:30 pm and arriving San Fernando at 2:50 pm. The return flight departs at 3:20 pm and arrives in Manila at 4:40 pm.

An introductory seat sale for as low as P1,188.00 inclusive of taxes and insurance charges is offered from July 17 to August 30 for travel dates of August 6 to September 30, 2010.

Omni Cessna crashed

Student pilot, instructor hurt

By Artemio Dumlao & Rudy Santos

August 06, 2010

Photo is loading...
A two-seater Cessna 152 sits upside down after crash-landing at the Loakan airport in Baguio City yesterday, causing injuries to its student pilot and his instructor. ANDY ZAPATA JR.
| Zoom
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Amid the exodus of Philippine Airlines pilots, a student pilot and his instructor were injured yesterday morning when a two-seater Cessna 152 trainer airplane crashed while landing at the Loakan Airport here.

The pilot of the plane Captain Glen Pedraja and student pilot Paul Burns suffered minor injuries and were treated at the Philippine Military Academy Hospital.

Police Inspector Carolina Desiderio, station chief of the PNP Aviation Security Group at the Loakan Airport said the landing gear of the Cessna plane with tail number RPC 8864 and owned by Omni Aviation Flying School based in Clark Field, Pampanga, had allegedly overshot the runway that caused the aircraft to turn upside down at around 9:27 a.m.

“We cannot yet ascertain what really caused the accident pending investigation by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines,” Desiderio said.

The Cessna 152 is still widely used worldwide by private individuals and flying schools.

Benhur Gomez, president of Omni Aviation Flyng School, told radio station dzBB that the ill-fated aircraft is one of three trainer planes that conducted cross-country training flights from Clark Field to the Loakan Airport.

He said that cross-country training that landing in several airfields in one day, is a requirement for student pilots before they can be certified as commercial pilots.

Gomez said the company had sent their maintenance crew to investigate the accident.

He said the mishap came at the heels of a shortage of pilots at PAL after more than 10 pilots resigned to get higher-paying jobs abroad.

Gomez said it is now time to train more local pilots to avoid a shortage of pilots who are forced to get jobs in foreign airliners that pay higher salaries.

Bomb explodes at Zamboanga International Airport

Kills two, injured rises to 22

August 5, 2010

A possible suicide bomber exploded a bomb at the arrival area of Zamboanga International Airport around 6:15pm today killing one person and injuring twelve others, with two person in critical condition.

One of the injured was Gov. Sakur Tan of Sulu who believes the bomb might have been targeted at him. The identity of other victims are still being verified as of posting.

As of 9:30 pm, Zamboanga City mayor Celso Lobregat confirmed that one of the seriously injured victim died in the hospital while number of those injured in the blast climbed to 22 as of 10pm last night.

Mayor Lobregat said that initial investigations done by police operatives indicated that the victim who died instantly on the spot was the one who was carrying the explosive device. He added that members of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) have recovered from the blast site an identification card believed to be that of the bearer of the explosive devise.

Philippine Airlines passengers were about to leave from the terminal building upon their arrival at 6:10pm when the bomb exploded. Authorities are still investigating what kind of explosives was used in the bombing.

The explosion occurred the night before the scheduled visit to the city of US Ambassador Harry Thomas which is now canceled due to security concerns.

Zamboanga International Airport is one of the most secured and militarized airport in the country.

Cebu Pacific to add more flights

while PAL cuts back capacity

August 6, 2010

Low cost airline Cebu Pacific said Wednesday that it would increase the number of flights to several international destinations as part of its expansion plan in the Asia-Pacific as three more A320's join their fleet this year. Meanwhile, flag carrier Philippine Airlines has reduced domestic flights after 25 of its pilots indiscriminately resigned last week.

Cebu Pacific is set to launch direct Manila-Brunei flights on August 21 and Manila-Beijing flights on September 5, while Philippine Airlines temporarily scrapped its Cebu-Davao flight, and reduced flights going to and from Manila and Ozamiz, Dipolog, Puerto Princesa and Cebu due to lack of pilots.

Cebu Pacific said in a statement that in its international expansion plan the current twice weekly flights from Manila to Kota Kinabalu will get an additional flight every Wednesday starting October 20, while flights from Manila to Taipei will operate daily Starting October 31 from its current five times weekly service. The Cebu-Singapore flights will also operate a daily service on October 31 and from December 15, three more flights will be added to the airline’s Manila-Kuala Lumpur service, for a daily frequency. The airline is also adding one more flights for its Manila to Jakarta route on December 19 making it four times weekly and double daily from Manila to Seoul starting Jan. 24, 2011.

Philippine Airlines international operations are not however affected. It has already submitted to the the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) a revised schedule with canceled and reduced frequencies to some of its domestic points.

5 New Technologies That Will Be in Commercial Planes Soon

By Debbie Owen

August 5, 2010

Taking flight could mean some innovative changes in the near future. From wifi to planes with a smaller carbon footprint, the industry is changing to make flying easier and more manageable for flight crews and passengers.

1. Airplanes that use less fuel.

You may not drive a car and you may recycle, but if you take to the skies more than three times per year, you have a considerable carbon footprint. Scientists have developed an accessible eco-friendly jetliner that uses 70% less fuel than standard jets. We’ve all seen great ideas like this get shot down by bureaucratic decisions before, but because these jets are made by the same manufacturers using the same parts of conventional planes, it may be a change we seen sooner than you think.

2. Airplanes that detect ash.

Following 2010’s European ash debacle, airliners are looking for ways to keep passengers safe while flying over ash-prone areas. Economy airline company, EasyJet PLC is getting ready to implement infrared technology on the fin of commercial airplanes to detect ash up to 100 kilometers away. This technology is already in use by some airlines for detecting thunderstorms, but must be upgraded to detect ash in the atmosphere. EasyJet PLC doesn’t have the kinks worked out for getting this on all of their commercial planes, but they are spending approximately 1.52 billion dollars to make it work.

3. Free wifi access on planes.

This one is something that’s been in the works for a few years now. Airlines don’t want to offer free wifi access to passengers. After all, we’re already paying for checking our luggage and no longer get snacks, so why would we expect anything else for free? Companies like Route 44 are teaming with airlines and major companies to give us wifi with ads while on a plane. This gives advertisers a chance to reach out to desirable customers and gives customers a chance to play, work or shop while traveling. Virgin Airlines offered free wifi service for a limited time, but now has joined other airlines in charging about $5 an hour to access the Internet while in transit.

4. Cell phones on planes.

Believe it or not, the U.S. is among the last places to offer cell phone service on a plane. This is because the FCC prevents it and has legislation pending to permanently ban in-flight cell phone calls. While the cell phone may seem like a helpful tool on a plane, it may also be cumbersome for those around you to listen to your chit-chat whether it’s work-related or not. Still, when there’s money to be made, you can expect this “perk” (that you’ll likely have to pay for) to be available on U.S. planes in the next couple of years.

5. Satellite TV on planes.

Canadian carrier WestJet already has satellite TV in their planes and it will only be a matter time of before other airlines follow suit. This involves a partnership with a satellite company, in WestJet’s case, this is Bell Canada. This service allows passengers to turn on the screen in front of them and watch TV shows that are on the air versus the pre-selected TV shows and episodes provided by most airlines. While this may not be a huge deal, it is an incentive for passengers with children, namely tweens. Airlines often offer drama and comedy channels, along with a set of shows aimed at very young children with little for the tween and teen set. Satellite TV would allow kids to watch their favorite shows and programming they’re familiar with, thus allowing their parents to fly peacefully.

The way we fly is changing and within the next few years, you’ll see a significant difference in flight travel when it comes to making things easier and more accessible.

FASAP wins injunction against PAL move for early retirement

August 5, 2010

The 1,600 members of the Flight Attendants’ and Stewards’ Association of the Philippines (FASAP) got an injunction from the Regional Trial Court of Makati yesterday against Philippine Airlines plan to implement the flight attendants retirement age policy at 55 according to the 2000 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the airline and the FASAP which expired in July 2007 for being discriminatory.

In 2004, Some 600 female members of FASAP filed a class suit against the airline company for gender discrimination. Judge Oscar Pimentel of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148 issued a Writ of Preliminary Injunction "to prevent serious damage and irreparable injury to its flight attendants as a result of purported gender-based discrimination.

FASAP is also trying to stop PAL to implement the retirement age policy of newly hired flight attendants at 40 years old, saying they were compelled to sign the agreement against their will for fear of losing their job.

In 2010, PAL has retired a total of 14 flight attendants pursuant to the policy, and 10 of whom were hired prior to November 1996 and are thus covered by the injunction order.

PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna countered that the compulsory retirement age provision were binding as it went through the legal process during the collective bargaining agreement negotiations undertaken in November 2000.

"No one’s forced them to sign that provision," Villaluna said.

Under that agreement, male and female flight attendants hired before November 1996 were required to retire at 60 and 55. Male and female flight attendants hired after 1996 are required to retire at 45 while those hired after 2000 should comply with the compulsory retirement age of 40.

Despite being served with the injunction order last July 30, PAL has not given flight schedules to the 10 flight attendants which is contrary to what the court order says.

Aside from the age issue, FASAP is also contesting the sex discrimination policy of the airline and the non-entitlement of maternity benefit to its members, contrary to the claim of Bautista, PAL President, for its medical benefit.

FASAP is also planning to file a notice of strike after PAL refused to bargain collectively with them, three years after their labor agreement expired.

According to its president Roberto Anduiza, PAL has been bargaining in bad faith with them by not cooperating in the mediation process as they refused to submit economic proposals which should have been the basis for new economic provision in the CBA.

Pilot cites redundancy, lower pay for resignation

PAL management says move necessary due to global crisis

MANILA, Philippines - A resigned pilot of Philippine Airlines (PAL) revealed on Wednesday that he and several of his colleagues quit their jobs after the country's flag carrier declared them redundant and decided to transfer them to its low-cost unit, with lower salary and zero benefits.

The management of PAL, meanwhile, defended the move, saying it was just temporary as the ailing airline had to cope with the global crisis.

Resigned PAL pilot, First Officer Henry Claveria, told ANC's Headstart that management asked them to sign a prepared document, declaring them redundant and transferring them to Air Philippines, the budget airline unit of PAL.

Claveria said they were told that those who would refuse to sign would be compensated, but would not be allowed to use their flying skills for another airline.

He said rumors about the transfer surfaced as early as last year, but it was denied by the management.

However, come February, 11 contractual captains, all aged 60 above, were given notice that their contracts had ended and they could transfer to Air Philippines.

"Nagkatotoo na nga ang balita na maglilipat," Claveria said.

After that, 7 regular first officers were also called in and given the same offer.

Claveria declined the offer because his usual P120,000 take home pay would be slashed by P30,000 and his benefits, including medical insurance for his family, would be written off.

Claveria and 24 others who were affected by the redundancy issue filed for resignations. Some of the pilots had taken jobs at international airlines.

The resignations had forced the cancellation of 18 PAL flights over the weekend, and 4 domestic flights on Monday.

Not just about money

Aside from lower pay and instability, the pilots walked out because they did not like how the management of PAL treated them.

Claveria said all PAL pilots have faithfully served the airline, thumbing down bigger offers by overseas carriers in the past.

“Hindi naman puro pera lang ito. Actually, hindi ito pera,” he said.

Claveria said if PAL had been more open about its plans, he and the other pilots would have stayed despite the salary cut.

Temporary response to crisis

PAL management, for its part, defended its move to transfer some of its pilots to its low-cost domestic flight operations.

PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime Bautista said the airline had to respond to the crisis in the global airline industry in 2008 and 2009, as well as address the growing competition from local airlines that offer cheaper air fares like Cebu Pacific.

"Mas malaki ang growth sa low cost market kumpara sa mga legacy airlines which offer more amenities. Mas maraming pasahero ang gustong lumipad ng mas mura kahit na medyo nahihirapan sila. Para naman makakuha kami ng magandang share sa low cost airline industry, nag decide ang management na i-convert ang dalawang eroplano into low cost operation," Bautista said in a phone interview with DZMM on Wednesday.

While PAL was facing stiff competition from the likes of Cebu Pacific in the domestic routes, the global economic downturn also led to reduced long-haul flights for most legacy carriers, and PAL was left with "excess" pilots.

"We had in February some pilots that we considered excess. We told them that for the meantime that the industry has not yet recovered, we can assign you to Air Philippines. But the moment the industry recovers, we will assign you back to PAL. This June, the industry started to recover, we put them back on PAL, these are just a few officers, and their salaries are the same," Bautista said.

He said that PAL management would not force the pilots who resigned to come back, but only wants to recover the costs in training them. He added the pilots should comply with their contracts, which include a 6-month notice if they plan to resign.

"We cannot force them if they don't want to come back, but they have to follow the terms of their contracts. In due time, we will get replacements, we had a similar problem in 2006 when we experienced an exodus of our pilots, but they have to give us proper notice because their skills are critical."

Bautista said there was also no issue about the pilots' retirement package.

"As a result of the 2006 crisis that we had, we made an agreement to further enhance or make their package attractive by doubling their retirement pay if they reach the mandatory retirement age of 60."

Operations back to normal

Bautista said that despite the unresolved issues, PAL's operations are back to normal. It only has to reduce its domestic flights, but its international operations have not been affected.

The airline is beset with other problems as its flight attendants and stewards are also threatening to strike to protest the mandatory retirement age of 40, while other employees, about 3,000, are also contesting PAL's plan to outsource its key operations.

The airline, Bautista said, suffered a loss of $1.4 billion in 2009, and has outstanding debts of about $1 billion. -- ABS-CBNNEWS

Why the Pilots left?

A captain's Confession

August 4, 2010

Yesterday, a gag order was circulated by the airline preventing its remaining narrow body pilots, as well as the rest of its employees to speak to the press about what is happening inside our ex-company. Also last night, a meeting was called by the government for us and the management to talk. We intentionally did not attend the meeting because there is nothing to talked about. We have no intention of going back either. We already severed our working relationship with them. Its better for us to see each other in court and just pay whatever damages there is to a breached contract than deal with them again.

On this ground, we also have no intention of showing our faces today at the meeting re-scheduled at 10 a.m. If worse comes to worst, we have or lawyers to defend our rights.

What made us leave is perhaps the best question to ask.

But contrary to management's propaganda of greener pasture abroad, is only half truth of what is really happening inside, a condition which prompted us to decide our fate for a better future. Its not all about the money. Its about respect.

PAL claimed that they are operating at a loss for three years in a row. Honestly, its not our problem if they mismanaged the company with indiscriminate fuel hedging. But it became our problem when some of our peers were declared redundant by the airline for the sheer incompetence of its managers.

And maybe because of a company named Air Philippines.

Last year, the service contracts of four senior Captains, namely De Dios, De la Cruz, Guttierez and Roma were terminated from service months before they were set to retire. The reason given by management was redundancy. Two of those pilots were due to end their contracts, one in about 3 months, and the other in about 6 months time. We found out later on that they were pre-terminated so that the airline could not pay its full retirement benefits.

If management can wrestle its way by short-changing our old guards, then there is no reason for us not to be wary about our own future with the airline. They already have done it with the turboprop pilots which left them without much choice. But maybe not us.

As early as October last year, the time when the axe first fell on the old guards, some of us were already scrambling to get out and find other employers before our time comes. By November some of us were able to contact other airlines and few got interviews as early as December.

True to our fears, a bombshell was dropped in January when information leaked that PAL is consolidating the operations of Pal Express and Air Philippines to compete with Cebu Pacific and that some of us might be transferred to the low cost arm of the airline because they were planning to retain only nine narrow bodies, most likely the ones ordered last year, while giving all the A319/320's to Airphil Express.

We thought there was no problem with that as long as they respect our contract. But behold, they didn't. By February, the next axe dropped when 11 senior Captains and 7 of the most junior First Officers were given redundancy notice. Some of them were even rated to fly the A330.

What is so unusual about the notice is that pilots were flying the average flying time of around 90 hours or more than what is required of them, meaning they are already over-worked. Yet management still declared redundancy when what they should have done is to hire more to cover the extra time.

It turned out that the purpose of redundancy was for them to move somewhere else, somewhere close. In a twist of fate, those declared redundant were offered work assignments at Airphil under a grossly disadvantageous terms to the old one they were currently enjoying at PAL, almost half to be exact, and if they choose to leave, they won't have the chance to work at PAL anymore.

All 18 of them doesn't have much choice, surprised perhaps, and with families to feed and mortgage to pay, they agreed to transfer to Airphil Express which was launched in March 27. And with the third A320 flying in July, its only a matter of time before the next redundancy will come.

Two more A320's from PAL are expected to join the Airphil fleet by October that we are expecting the next round of transfer by September. Therefore, it becomes paramount for us to find greener pasture outside the fence.

Four more aircraft will join the Airphil fleet next year, five aircraft in 2012 and another five in 2013 that by that time there will be no more A320 left in the PAL fleet.

All the remaining A320 pilots started exploring other options available to them before they got hit, both regular and contractual. I was fortunate to be called early. If PAL did not respect the contract of other pilots, then I am not expecting them to respect mine. So why should I respect theirs?

If we can't have security of tenure, then at least it would be a lot better to work elsewhere with the same unsecured job but with maybe a better compensation and benefits. Same risks but better returns.

If they don't respect us, then certainly they don't deserved ours!

Video courtesy of GMANews.TV

Implications of winning Terminal 3

By Perfecto R. Yasa
y Jr.

August 4, 2010

I fully understand why President Aquino expressed intense delight when informed about the dismissal of the case filed by Philippine International Air Terminals Corp. (Piatco) against the government before the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) in Singapore. He saw what this unexpected break brings to the cash-strapped government he inherited as a result of the fiscal excesses of his predecessor.

To begin with, our hard-pressed taxpayers will not be burdened with the $1.1-billion payment that was sought by Piatco as a result of the cancellation by the government of the contract to construct the Naia Terminal 3 under a build-operate-transfer (BOT) arrangement. Furthermore, the President would be given the opportunity to pursue vigorously the prosecution of corrupt officials and their conspirators associated with the anomalous contract.

In 2003 the BOT contract for the terminal facility was invalidated by the Supreme Court because of terms that violated the Constitution, the law and public policy and also because of grave irregularities concomitant to its award. However, Piatco sought redress, invoking a provision in the nullified contract, through arbitration before the ICA of the International Chamber of Commerce. On the other hand, Fraport AG, the German partner in Piatco, filed suit before the International Court for the Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington, D.C., for reparation of investment losses in accordance with a treaty between Germany and the Philippines.

But while two of the three main legal obstacles to the final takeover by the government of Naia Terminal 3 have been overcome, the third and most troublesome, which is the expropriation proceeding pending before the Regional Trial Court in Pasay City, can further delay the full operation and eventual privatization of the Terminal 3 project.

The expropriation of the facility, by itself, is another scandalous abnormality. The terminal building was erected on government land. As a general rule, a house or building constructed on real property belongs to the owner of the land. Naia Terminal 3 is no exception. Even the provisions of the BOT contract to build the facility make this unmistakably clear.

Expropriation is a judicial proceeding that allows the State, in the exercise of its Eminent Domain powers, to take private property (usually land) for a public purpose, upon payment of just compensation. Why then-President Arroyo allowed the expropriation of Terminal 3 is perplexing, although not surprising. But what is even more disturbing and unsettling is why the Supreme Court did not strike down this expropriation for being anomalous and prejudicial to the public interest.

Piatco is merely the builder of the terminal complex on government land. As such, its entitlement to compensation should be determined under the provisions of the Civil Code, with respect to the rights of a builder on property belonging to another, and not as owner.

The invalidation by the Supreme Court of the BOT contract for Terminal 3 and its award because of corruption makes Piatco a builder in bad faith. For this reason, it should only be compensated for what it deserves, just like anyone who builds on the property of another without the valid consent of the owner. A builder in bad faith can only be paid the actual costs of improvements made, less damages suffered by the owner of the land.

And yet, the taking by the government of private property in expropriation proceedings is different because payment for just compensation is made to the owner and not to a builder. Moreover, in determining “just compensation,” consideration is given to the market value of the property, its replacement costs including reasonable profits or opportunity losses to the owner.

Because of the expropriation of Naia Terminal 3, Piatco can still be paid a staggering compensation approximating $1.1 billion because Piatco is deemed the owner of the property when, in fact, it is not.

The two arbitral cases in Washington, D.C., and Singapore were dismissed by the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes and the ICA, respectively, on the findings of graft and corruption participated in by both Fraport and Piatco. But the expropriation proceedings over Naia Terminal 3 were purposely instituted by the government to cover up the anomalies that accompanied the BOT project.

According to some experts, the money plowed into the actual construction of Terminal 3 has not exceeded $200 million. The government already spent around $150 million to complete the project that was estimated to cost around only $350 million. Given this situation, Piatco deserves to be paid not more than $200 million, less damage that the government has sustained.

The President should not allow the payment of what would essentially be unjust compensation to Piatco if the expropriation proceeding prospers. He must order the Department of Transportation and Communications and the Solicitor General to withdraw immediately the case. It can still be done because Piatco has never agreed to be bound by determination of the expropriation judge.

Only then would our people see the proper closure of this scandalous BOT project and the opening of Naia Terminal 3 for full operation, hopefully in December 2010.

CX mulled to fly domestic again

August 3, 2010

Hong Kong based airline, Cathay Pacific is being eyed by the government again to cover the flight allotments of Philippine Airlines in the event it can't handle the surge of domestic travelers in the coming months.

"If it worsen then we are ready to re-allocate traffic rights to foreign airlines" says DOTC Undersecretary Dante Velasco who disclosed the plan after sensing that the meeting between the pilots association and PAL management is not the end of its trouble.

The government postponed the dialogue between the management and pilots of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) for tomorrow when no pilots other than its representative at ALPAP showed at the DOTC grounds in Ortigas.

June to October is the lean season for domestic flights. What the government foresee however is the inability of other local carriers to service passengers at peak season starting November.

"We have talks with other airlines like Cebu Pacific and Zest Air, and they said that the additional capacity they have is not sufficient to cover demand at that period" adds Velasco.

The government said that they have done re-allocation of traffic rights in the past citing the services of Cathay Pacific in 1998 when PAL was unable to fly its route and is not ruling out the possibility of calling them again in case of “worst-case scenarios.”

"This is a national interest issue. But of course we will offer this right to other domestic operators if they can fill the demand" Velasco said.

No-fly zone

August 3, 2010

IT MAY be, as some of the employees of Philippine Airlines have started to suggest, that the untimely resignation of about two dozen pilots is a crisis that is the company’s own making. There will be space to discuss that, but first things first: Both the pilots and PAL management must recognize that the dispute affects not only the two parties themselves but the general public. The crippling of PAL, in other words, is a matter of national interest.

That is why former Sen. Ernesto Herrera’s press release circulated Tuesday, on behalf of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, strikes us as both misleading and unhelpful. PAL cannot force its pilots to fly or to stay, Herrera said. “professionals
are entitled to go wherever their skills will get the greatest reward. If employers or companies can invoke their need to stay profitable in order to justify indiscriminate job cuts, then surely professionals and other staff are also entitled to abandon their posts in favor of greener pasture elsewhere.”

No one disagrees with the basic principle that the pilots—13 captains and 12 first officers flying the airline’s workhorse planes—can leave for higher pay or better conditions abroad. Not even PAL management. “PAL doesn’t want to get in the way of its pilots’ dream of landing better paying jobs abroad, but they have contractual obligations with the company and a moral responsibility to thousands of passengers,” a management statement read.

The immediate issue is precisely those contractual obligations. Because commercial airplane pilots possess what are called “mission-critical skills,” they cannot simply resign. Government regulations require six months’ notice—surely a reasonable requirement, designed to ensure the traveling public’s safety by providing the airline enough time to train replacements. The pilots who left the company immediately after tendering their letters of resignation thus have some explaining to do—to the public at large.

But the long-term issue is squarely in PAL management’s court. And it is something that airline executives cannot simply explain away by saying that other airlines offer “two to three times” a PAL pilot’s salary. A higher salary, after all, is not always the main deciding factor in choosing a new job; work conditions come into play, including employee morale and the reasonable expectation of success in one’s chosen career path. The rumblings from PAL’s rank and file, therefore, form an ominous soundtrack: rumors about unsatisfactory secondment to affiliate companies; employee complaints about undermanned flights, resulting in overworked flight attendants; excessive downsizing. Even the improbably coincidental immediate resignation of the pilots is already a statement in itself.

If these issues remain unresolved, what is to prevent another mass resignation of pilots, or airline mechanics, or flight attendants, in the future?

The international repercussions, it bears belaboring, go beyond the economic. For instance, the Agence France Presse story on the resignations that the popular Yahoo News service carried used the following headline: “Philippine Airlines cancels flights as pilots quit.” Strictly speaking, this was an accurate description. But a reader abroad, who may not have the time to read the story and thus find out that the cancellations affected only a handful of flights and two dozen pilots, may think the entire airline has suspended all operations. In other words, the headlines alone can damage PAL’s reputation, and with it the country’s image, too.

The Associated Press decided to use a humorous lead in one of its stories on the PAL crisis. “Good morning, passengers, and welcome aboard. We’re expecting clear skies today, but we’re out of pilots.”

Funny, ha-ha. But in fact the joke’s on the country, which is part of the name of Asia’s oldest airline. Like we said, the impact of news like this, while it will be felt most sharply in business and tourism, goes beyond the economic.

Garuda makes an Emergency Landing

August 3, 2010

A Garuda Indonesia flight (GA883) from Osaka bound to Denpasar, Bali, made an emergency landing this afternoon at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Initial report disclosed that the Airbus A330-300 (Msn 138) PK-GPA plane suffered an engine trouble prompting the pilot to divert to Manila.

No one was reported injured in the incident.

Ormoc airport expansion on course

By Felix N. Codilla III
August 3, 2010

ORMOC CITY—Work on this city’s airport-development project will continue next month. This is the assurance given by contractor Eduardo Canlas to quell speculations that politics has stalled the project even if this will boost Ormoc’s image as a major tourist destination.

Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez said in a radio interview recently that the airport project was halted because the work contract was not yet signed. The project is credited to former congressman Eufrocino M. Codilla Sr., as the special allotment release order was released on October 20 last year.

Canlas confirmed Gomez’s claim the contract is not yet signed, but said this had nothing to do with the work stoppage. The real reason, he said, was that funds for the acquisition of adjacent properties haven’t been released yet by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

The five-year (2009-14) airport-development program is divided into three phases. Phase I, which was lobbied by Codilla, costs P80 million, with P15 million allotted for site acquisition. Despite the non-release of the P15-million fund, Canlas was able to gain access to one of the properties subject for expropriation.

He secured a permit to enter and work on the 11,062-square-meter property of Leonardo Sagales, where a new terminal will rise. But the permit is good only from June 1 to July 15, the reason he had to stop, he said.

Gomez’s claim that the contract has not yet been signed is also true, which Canlas attributes to the change of administration.

The project was bid out on February 23 and awarded in April to Tokweng Construction. That time, Transportation Secretary Anneli Lontoc had just been installed as replacement of Leandro Mendoza. Lontoc failed to sign the contract, as she was replaced on July 5 by Secretary Jose P. de Jesus.

Canlas is confident the new Transportation secretary will sign the contract before August, as it is highly recommended by DOTC officials, namely, Dante Lulu, area manager for Western and Central Visayas Regions; Abelardo D. Sore, head engineer and architect of planning division; and Geronimo V. Quintos, chief of legal affairs and research division.

The three officials were in Ormoc recently to inspect work progress and were pleased to see that the project is ahead of schedule. The contractor was able to pour filling materials on the site and put up a temporary fence and bunkhouse. Once the contract is signed, the notice to proceed is automatically approved and the contractor can continue the project.

Phase I involves site development and construction of security fence and a 1,350-sq-m terminal costing P64 million. The terminal facilities will include a check-in counter, arrival and predeparture area, and administrative office. Some 5.4 hectares are being prioritized for acquisition for Phase I at P200 per sq m. However, processing of documentary requirements by landowners is taking time.

The contract duration for the terminal is nine months, but Canlas is bent on finishing it in seven to eight months. Such is his commitment to the project that he has spent some P1 million of personal funds. If his schedule is followed, the airport will have a spanking new passenger terminal next summer.

Phase 2 will involve the demolition of the old existing terminal to give way to the extension and widening of the runway and apron, as well as construction of a turnaround pad. Other improvements slated are a new fire station, administration building, powerhouse and control tower.

Navigational facilities are also considered in the five-year plan, like precision approach path indicator lights, very high-frequency Omni range, as well as runway markers and lights. All these developments would require an expansion of the airport site from the present 17 to 41 hectares.

Canlas said the fulfillment of all these plans will depend on the aggressive lobbying of the new congresswoman. If the development plan is fulfilled, the airport’s category will be raised from the present principal class II, or secondary, to principal class I, or trunk line. --Business Mirror