NAIA Terminals Connected

May 31, 2012 

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) is connecting its Terminals 1, 2, 3, and 4 by September after acquiring 10 brand-new shuttle buses to ply exclusively between terminals for the convenience of passengers in a drive to improve its image and services.

“There will be 10 new free shuttle buses in four months,” says MIAA Head Jose Angel Honrado. 

Honrado said the brand new buses would ply the loop that goes through the service road inside the airport compound, expediting its travel time between terminals by passengers wishing to transfer and catch flight from one terminal to another.

The airport chief said there is a need to connect the terminals to transfer passengers from one terminal to another and its cheaper and efficient to connect them by bus shuttles than rails.

Previously, MIAA fielded 4 shuttle buses, free of charge, complemented by 4 other privately operated buses that charge P20 per passenger. These shuttle buses follow a loop that go around the perimeter of Naia Terminals 1, 2 and 3 and 4.

The problem according to Honrado was that these vehicles most often are caught in traffic when traversing Terminal 3 and 4 together with other vehicles in the road.

“To expedite passenger transfer we need to operate them inside” Honrado adds.
“Shuttle services between passengers terminals are a common sight in many advanced airports in the world,” Honrado said.

The upgrade calls for the phaseout of the present bus shuttles and the introduction of a “jeepney-inspired” Cobus shuttle service.

A Cobus is an infield shuttle bus designed specifically for use at airports.

According to Honrado, operating inside airport premises will improve passenger security and avoid shuttles mingling with regular vehicles in congested roads as well as enable efficient passenger transfer from one terminal to another.

Dragon Air adds Clark

May 29, 2012

Cathay Pacific Airways wholly owned subsidiary Dragonair, began its daily flights from the Clark International Airport (CIA) to Hong Kong Today Tuesday departing with 183 passengers aboard its Airbus 320.

The flight that took off at 11:20 a.m joins Asiana Airlines of South Korea to fly from the former US airbase.

Other international low cost operators are Jin Air, and  Air Asia joining local operators Cebu Pacific, Airphil Express South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR) and Air Asia Philippines with flights to Seoul, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu.

The Clark International Airport expects to serve 1.5 million passengers at the end of 2012.

DOTC allots additional P2 billion for Bicol airport

May 29, 2012

By Rainier Allan Ronda

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has approved an additional P2-billion budget for the new Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA), which is due for completion in 2014.

DOTC Secretary Manuel Roxas II approved the realignment of P2 billion from the unspent funds of the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) budget in 2011.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said he expects another P2 billion to be allotted in 2013.

Salceda said the international airport is expected to accommodate 650,000 foreign tourist arrivals in 2016, as estimated by the Albay-Sorsogon-Masbate Tourism Alliance.

Salceda spearheaded the organization of the alliance of Bicol’s three southernmost provinces as a novel tack in tourism marketing as chairman of the Bicol Regional Development Council.

The Legazpi domestic airport is only serving 11 flights daily and could not accommodate new landing system instruments.

Sundown restrictions also curtail flight options. Experts have long abandoned the expansion of the Legazpi airport due to its close proximity to Mayon Volcano.

SLIA is strategically situated to serve both Luzon and the Visayas and is projected to help boost tourism in Bicol and the entire country in the long term.

French aircraft manufacturer enters PI

Eurocopter, Dassault jet store opens

By Recto Mercene

May 24, 2012

THE Philippine economy must be performing well, gauging by the decision of Eurocopter Philippines and France’s Dassault Falcon to jointly sell the seven-seater helicopter and the eight-seater Falcon jet as complimentary package for the country’s top 500 corporations, including chairmen and chief executive officers of multinational companies and conglomerates.
There is a family of Falcons to choose from—six distinct aircraft to suit the company’s budget—while the helicopter needs no further introduction, having been introduced in the Philippine market since 1970.
Jussi Hoikka, commercial director of Eurocopter Philippines, said the company has locally sold 60 Eurocopters, at $3 million to $3.2 million per unit, representing a 60-percent share of the market.
Its most exclusive feature is the Fenestron tail rotor, which is enclosed and not exposed like most helicopters. This prevents personnel or passengers from being cut accidentally when the rotor is turning.
The Eurocopter T3 is also equipped with an “active vibration control system,” vibrations being a natural curse of all helicopters owing to its design. This helicopter, however, senses the vibrations and a damper removes this bone rattling sensation, lessening the noise to give passengers comfortable ride, devoid of nausea.
The Falcon costs $30 million, excluding the 12-percent to 25-percent tax. So far, only one has been sold locally, compared to the 25 percent to 30 percent that Chinese billionaires had gobbled up so far.
However, as Hoikka pointed out, they aim to sell about six to 10 Falcons for the next two years, and in five years, be the leading executive jet supplier in the country.
He said a busy executive can jet to any point in the Philippines, and still afford to make it on time to any remote locations by hopping to a waiting Eurocopter, which would be the favorite chariot of choice by mining executives, oil and gas barons and politicians hot on campaign trails.
The helicopter can be also be used for emergency medical evacuation and to enter the remotest jungle or reach any isolated islands.
Eurocopter Philippines has a 95-percent Filipino staff, mostly industry professionals, serving customers that include the Coast Guard, the Navy, the National Police, charter operators, corporate operators and other private owners.
The Falcon 2000LX, the latest in the lineup, has enough headroom for tall persons, and offers 5-percent additional range, which would be 4,500 nautical miles, over the 2000EX EASy model.
It can land and takeoff on 1,500 meters of runway.
At the cockpit, cutting-edge technology includes two onboard computers, a fully digitalized cockpit, a trackball like in a computer game, where the pilot places the cursor in on a map, and pinpoints the runway locations anywhere in the world. The map could be enlarged to see the airport’s layout and all information needed for navigation.
Instantly, the pilot is provided with any particular runway’s length, configuration, navigational aids, frequencies to tune in and all related data.
Not many airplanes, even commercial ones, have this computerized cockpit.
Capt. Frederick Lascourreges, the check-pilot, shows how, by the turn of the trackball, he can avail of any information at his fingertips, having done away with the “Flying Kit Bag” a bulky black leather bag that used to contain all the maps and the pilot’s survival kit.

Airline helps World Heritage Site preservation

Asiana Airlines support the UNESCO World Heritage Sites
May 23, 2012

Following its preservation project with Angkor Wat in Cambodia and housing projects for the Aeta in the Philippines, the airline has set its sight on central Vietnam. Asiana has unveiled a grand entrance guidepost at Hoi An Center for Cultural Heritage Management and Preservation in Da Nang, Vietnam.

The center preserves the Hoi An Ancient Town, a well-preserved town representing a Southeast Asian trading post of the 19th century; and the My Son Sanctuary, tower temple ruins that embody the religious center of the Champa Kingdom in what is now Vietnam.

Aside from the grand entrance guidepost, Asiana will remodel the Hoi An Tourist Information Center, print information brochures and leaflets in Vietnamese, Korean, and English, and erect 30 solar-powered street lamps. The project aims to develop tourism infrastructure near the sites and help boost the local economy.

“On the 20th anniversary of Korea-Vietnam diplomatic relations, we hope that our initiative contributes to better relations between our two countries, and we plan to continue to expand our preservation efforts as all of humanity must protect our world heritage,” said Young-doo Yoon, Asiana Airlines president and chief executive. He was joined at the event by Taeck-Soo Chun, the Secretary General of the Korean National Commission for Unesco, Nguyen The Hung, the Head of the World Heritage Site Management Center, and Pham Cao Phong, the Secretary General of the Viet Nam National Commission for Unesco.

Asiana Airlines flies three times a week from Incheon International Airport in Korea to Da Nang, Vietnam. The airline flies to Incheon from three points in the Philippines: Manila, Clark and Cebu.

Ex 2P Execs jump to Zest ship

May 23, 2012

After San Miguel bought Philippine Airlines (PAL) and its low-cost subsidiary Airphil Express, four of its top executives has been hired by low cost rival Zest Airways holding the same position they previously held in the former airline.

Heading the pack is Alfredo Herrera who was hired as Zest Air's chief marketing and sales officer, the same job he performed with his former airline, while LCC operation adviser Brian Hogan was hired as Chief Executive Adviser. Also hired were Steve Allen as Chief Commercial Adviser and Rick Laig as Chief Financial Officer.

The four were instrumental to the success and rapid growth of the Airphil Express platform of low cost operation besting Cebu Pacific strategy and consequently eating and catching up its market share it held for four years.

Air Philippines was the country's fastest growing Airline in 2011 and perhaps the fastest growing airline in 2012 based on the number of passengers carried in the first half as compared to the previous year.

PAL Flies 3rd 77W Down Under

Upgrade starts June 30

May 22, 2012

Philippine Airlines will fly again its Boeing 777-300ER on all Australian services from June 30, 2012 onwards.

The new Boeing 777 will replace the Airbus A340 currently used by the airline on flights from Sydney and Melbourne.

Philippine Airlines previously used a Boeing 777 on the Sydney-Manila route from 2010, before the aircraft was swapped unto PAL's Vancouver services.

The new aircraft sports 42 seats in Mabuhay Class (business class) in a largely 2-3-2 layout.

Designed by Recaro, each is 20 inches wide with a 78 inch seat pitch. The lie-flat seats recline up to 150 degrees.

In economy or Fiesta Class there are 328 seats of 18.5 inch width and a pitch of 33-34 inches.

A Panasonic inflight entertainment system offers audio and video on demand in every seat, with USB ports for keeping your smartphone or tablet powered up during the flight.

CAB ends domestic overbooking

Suspends airline privileges

May 22, 2012

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has issued an order Monday prohibiting airlines from overbooking flights anywhere in the Philippines.

In a statement, CAB Director Carmilo Arcilla said  they ordered domestic airlines to stop overbooking of flights, which often results in bumping off passengers and consequently raised the minimum penalties paid by airlines when they bump off passengers. 

From P150 per passenger bumped off or denied booking, CAB now imposes a P5,000 minimum fee per passenger against each erring airline.
Under a 1972 rule, the compensation for denied boarding stands at P150 for domestic and P1,500 for international flights, plus 100 percent of the value of the first remaining flight coupon. 

Arcilla said they are major issue in the Philippines as they received numerous complaints for bumped passengers, particularly from low cost carrier Cebu Pacific.

The Board also suspended the application of the provision on overbooking contained in Section 3, Economic Regulation No. 7, as amended, 'Boarding Priority and Denied Boarding Compensation, except for some international flights.
“all tickets, regular or promo shall be rebookable and refundable. The general conditions of carriage shall be amended accordingly,” CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said in the order. 
Small print in airline tickets for domestic flights does not provide for rebooking or refund.

In an order dated May 4, the CAB suspended the privilege of local airlines to overbooked flights and decline rebooking or refund from passengers that request it, especially when their flights are delayed or cancelled.

“all tickets, regular or promotional shall be revokable and refundable," the Board said.
The practice of overbooking is an international business strategy adopted mostly by transportation and communication companies.

This strategy allows telephone and internet operators, airlines, trains and cruise ships to ensure that all of its telephone/internet lines, seats or rooms will have maximum returns since all subscribers don't use the service simultaneously,  or in airlines, it reduces the chance for their plane to take off with empty seats.

Airlines usually oversold tickets in a flight based on previous years' passenger statistics of how many travelers have cancelled at the last minute for the route. 

In a disclosure by Cebu Pacific's Candice Iyog, she declared that a certain percentage of passengers are expected to be "no-shows" at some domestic points, particularly early morning flights, and none cancels to resort destinations like Caticlan during summer.

"In some other days, travelers change their travel plans but do not cancel their reservations". Iyog explained.  

Notorious for cancellations are businessmen who cancel travel at the last minute when their business meetings take more time than planned but they usually travel in full service carriers.

Legaspi Airport Project Torched

May 20, 2012
Albay Airport Project was attacked by leftest communist members over the weekend resulting to damages to construction equipment owned by  Sunwest Construction and Development Corp. (SCDC) amounting to P70 million pesos.The South Luzon International Airport (SLIA) is a P3.4-billion project funded by the national government located at a 400-hectare land in Alobo, Daraga town, some 10 kilometers from Legazpi City.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said P600 million was released this year to start the construction of roads leading to the airport site. The project is slated for completion in the last quarter of 2014.

In Pictures from the Philippine Star.--- Gov. Salceda inspects the construction equipment torched by communist rebels at the airport site in Barangay Alobo, Daraga town on Friday night.                                                            Edd Gumban

SF260TP Down

Pilots Dead.

May 19, 2012

 Photo showing similar PAF SF260TP 29-06 (706), similar type of which crashed in Bataan, Friday Morning.  

The Philippine Airforce lost a light attack SF.260TP (716) plane as it crashed off Mariveles, Bataan for unknown reason. 

“We confirm that SF260 TP Warrior Number 716 has crashed in the vicinity of Mariveles,” said Lt. Col. Miguel Okol, spokesman of the Philippine Air Force.

He identified the crew as Maj. Tumaning and Lt. Arugay.

The Navy and Coast Guard personnel have found the aircraft wreckage near La Monja Island, five kilometers west of Corregidor and between Cavite and Bataan. It was towed towards port for investigation.” says Okol.

According to witnesses who were fishermen at the area the plane tilt sideways before making a nosedive. No smoke nor explosion was reported.

The Sangley-based SF260 ground attack planes left Cavite at 6:52 a.m. for proficiency flight.

“We’ve found the wreckage at around 7:30 a.m.,”  says Mariveles Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Efren Dichoso.

“The impact area which is 3 nautical miles off Mariveles was about 180 feet deep. We recovered a fuel tank, a pilot helmet and one of the seats of the plane.”Dechoso added said.

“There was no distress call or mayday call,” says Okol.

Okol explained that the plane was not among those which were acquired by the PAF in 2010.

The Italian-made SF-260 is a propeller-driven, two-seater trainer which the Air Force bought from supplier Alenia Aermacchi S.p.A. for P621,671,409.60 and delivered in four batches. The first batch arrived on Oct. 12, 2010 while the second and third batches were delivered on Nov. 29, 2010 and March 1, 2011, respectively.

Meanwhile, the SF260 TP Warrior bought in 1995 has been reconfigured from what was originally the PAF’s trainer plane into a light attack combat utility aircraft after the procurement of new trainers.

The Philippine Air Force has long history with SIAI-Marchetti SF.260. The first SF.260 for PAF arrived in August 1967. All SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 delivered to PAF were brand new from the factory from SIAI-Marchetti factory in Italy.

Twenty-seven SIAI-Marchetti SF.260MP were delivered in May 1973 onwards. Most were later reported traded in for SIAI-Marchetti SF.260TP.

Eighteen SIAI-Marchetti SF.260TP were ordered in December 1991 and delivered in July 1993. 

Seven of the SIAI-Marchetti SF.260TP were assigned to the 15th Strike Wing and assigned to the 18th Assault Squadron based at Atienza Air Base in the light strike role. 

$18 Million VOR/DME faciltiy earmark for 14 Airports

May 19, 2012

The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) announced Tuesday the earmarking of $18 million dollars (P800 million) for the upgrading of 14 domestic airports across the country.

Secretary Manuel Roxas said the fund has already been transferred to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) for project implementation covering major domestic airports to be capable of night landing operations as part of the solutions to the seasonal  congestion at the airport.

Phase one of the project covers the airport of Tagbilaran, Legaspi, Butuan, and Naga, while Phase II covers the airports Dumaguete, Ozamis, Cotabato, Dipolog, Roxas, Pagadian, Tuguegarao, Busuanga, Surigao, and San Jose.

Caticlan airport upgrade for night flight operation is currently ongoing.

CAAP  presently has 14 airports capable of night landing operations. They are the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Clark International Airport, Subic International Airport, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Davao International Airport (Davao), Iloilo Airport, Cagayan De Oro Airport, Bacolod Silay Airport, Kalibo International Airport, Tacloban Airport, Puerto Princesa International Airport, Zamboanga International Airport, General Santos International Airport and Laoag International Airport.

The installation of night landing facilities on the 14 airports will  pave the way for the  domestic carriers to ease traffic at the NAIA where they can now schedule their flights out of NAIA on non-peak hours.  They can then make a turn-around flight and still be able to leave some provincial airports at anytime of the day.

Meanwhile, Roxas  also announced during the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with domestic airline operators for the integration of the terminal fee  into the airfare, that another 100 million pesos was approved for the rehabilitation of  the 30-year old Terminal 1 and another 50 million pesos for the repair of Terminal 3.

US Declines F-16 Request to appease China

As Aquino shops for $1.6 billion jets in Europe

May 17, 2012

The content of the confidential two plus two meeting may now be clearer as President Aquino declared Wednesday that they are shopping for fighter jets in Europe to modernize its defenses.

The Philippines last month requested aircraft, patrol boats and radar systems from the US to help it achieve a “minimum credible defence.”
The Philippines hopes to buy two squadrons of military jets for as much as $1.6 billion to modernize its territorial defenses until 2020, President Benigno Aquino said Wednesday.

“We do have an alternative, and — this is a surprise — it seems we have the capacity to buy brand-new, but not from America,” Aquino said.

Mr. Aquino said that it is more "economical" to buy trainers from Europe or other countries that offer cheaper prices for brand new jets. 

"We do not have any fighter jets right now -- zero. We only have two trainer jets. But it seems we now have the capability to buy brand new. There is what we call a lead-in jet trainer and its airframe can be converted into a fighter jet," he said.

"It may be more expensive to buy secondhand jets because it has a shorter life-span. I think the minimum we can get is a lead-in trainer that is also a fighter aircraft," Mr. Aquino added.

Air Force spokesman Col. Miguel Okol said minimum requirements for the jet include supersonic ability, multifunction displays and On Board Oxygen Generation System.

The government intends to buy new training jets for between $400 million and $800 million per squadron and upgrade the planes to fighters, Mr. Aquino said.

A squadron is made up of between 16 and 24 jets.

There are only two aircraft considered by the Philippine Air Force as trainer jets. 

They are the Korean made TA-50, a joint venture program of Korea Aerospace Industrie (KAI) and Lockheed Martin of the United States, with a price tag of USD $25 million, and  the Italian made Alenia Aermacchi M-346 of the Finmeccanica Group, which is a twin engine, two seat aircraft, a deriva­tive of the Russian Yakovlev Yak-130. It has a price tag of USD$20 million.

Italy is a country in Europe and the company is a major defense contractor.

The Aermacchi M-346 has a “Fly Away” price tag of about USD $15 million per plane, while the TA-50 settles at USD $21 million based on Singapore and Indonesia offer.

The T-50 and M-346 are considered to be among the best advanced trainer jets on the global market. Both Singapore and the UAE bought the M-346 for their training needs while Indonesia opted for the T-50.

The trainer aircraft is intended to ensure pilots to be properly trained to fly new generation fighters like the F-16 or F-18.

Mr. Aquino was however mum when he was asked whether the US did offer the country F-18 Super Hornets instead. 

“That’s what the Armed Forces of the Philippines is studying.” Mr. Aquino said.

F/A-18 Super Hornets is manufactured by US Aerospace giant Boeing Co. with a price tag of $65 million dollars. The F/A-18 is a twin engine, mid-wing, multi-mission tactical aircraft introduced to the US Navy in 1999. It is also flying with Royal Australian Air Force  since December 2010. It is not immediately known if the same variant used by the RAAF is the same variant offered to the PAF as Australia fully upgrades its front-line to F-35 JSF fighters in 2020.

Both the M-346 and F/A-18 has twin engines.

A Pentagon official said China's growing military power justified the Philippines need for such a high tech plane to be more or less respectable with Beijing air assets.

"To have this plane they need the trainers for proficiency" says the official who doesn't want to be identified. 

Lead-in fighter training (LIFT) jets simulate operational fighter planes and they provide efficient training in combat scenarios with reduced training cost as compared to moving straight to operational fighter jets.
A Pentagon security paper disclosed that "the Philippines needs up to four squadrons of jet fighters to defend its airspace.

The same report from the Center for a New American Security CNAS) also confirmed the need four squadrons for the Philippine Air Force.

The Aquino administration has embarked on a plan to upgrade the country’s military Air Force which has no viable fighter jets. The plan is part of efforts to better address external threats, which include increased tension with China over disputed waters in the South China Sea.

PAF is seeking funding for the purchase of six (6) multirole interceptors, supported by 6 to 12 Surface Attack Aircraft (SAA)/Lead-In Fighter Training (LIFT) jets.

The Philippines signed a five-year agreement with Italy earlier this year for the purchase of trainers. Delivery date of the trainer jets is scheduled in 2016.

Aquino has poured $395 million on the AFP since coming into office in 2010, compared to annual budget of $51 million in the previous 15 years.

Flying Cheap has a Price

And More Fun to Fly in the Philippines

May 17, 2012

By Greg B. Macabenta

Reading about the complaints of passengers against the "company policies" of Cebu Pacific reminds me of a trip that I took to Sri Lanka several decades ago. My flight from Manila to Bangkok had been cancelled due to engine trouble and, while the airline arranged to book the stranded passengers in a hotel, that still left me with a missed Air Lanka connecting flight from Bangkok to Colombo.

At any rate, upon arriving in Bangkok the next day, I made a beeline for the Air Lanka counter. I asked about the next available flight to Colombo. The counter clerk’s reply probably qualifies as a classic Cebu Pacific response:

"There is a flight to Colombo, sir. But it may be delayed."

"How long?"

"A few hours or a few days."

Mercifully, the Air Lanka flight was only delayed a few hours -- if half a day may be described as few.

I thought that was the end of my ordeal. But flying out of Colombo, at the end of the conference that I had attended, I had agreed to meet with my wife in Singapore. We would then take another flight to Manila.

"I’m sorry, sir," the Air Lanka clerk in Colombo told me. "The only flight available is to Hong Kong, not Singapore."

Anxious to get home and back to work, I grudgingly agreed to the Hong Kong trip and had to suffer my wife’s disappointment at being deprived of a trip to Singapore.

Well, guess what. I took the flight which I had been told was bound for Hong Kong. But when we were aloft, I heard the pilot inform us on the intercom that we were headed for -- yes, no kidding -- Singapore!!!

As you can see, being stranded because of a cancelled Cebu Pacific flight is really more fun than taking an Air Lanka flight.

By the way, Air Lanka ceased operations less than a year later. I don’t think passengers bumped off by Cebu Pacific can expect to be as lucky. So, grin and bear it, guys. And enjoy the fun.

That’s what you get for flying cheap.

In late-September last year, on a trip that my wife and I made to Manila and then to Albay, we also took Cebu Pacific. Whether any one believes me or not, it was a great trip. We left on time. We arrived in Legaspi on time. It was a comfortable landing. We got our luggage. And, best of all, we paid discounted fare.

But returning to Manila was another FUN experience. What could be more fun than typhoon Pedring hitting the Philippines? All the flights from Legaspi to Manila became iffy -- almost as iffy as the projected Air Lanka delay of a few hours to a few days.

Because I had a speaking part in the Global Pinoy Diaspora conference organized by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, it was imperative for us to get back to Manila by the end of the day.

It turned out that there were several airlines servicing the Legaspi-Manila route. The only ones I can recall were PAL, Air Philippines Express and Cebu Pacific. But none of these offered the possibility of a flight. One airline which, I guess, is better left unremembered, assured us that there was a flight and there were seats available, but we had to pay an arm and a leg, if you know what I mean. The airline obviously subscribed to the law of supply and demand.

Our last option? We hired an airconditioned private van (colorum, I suspect) to bring us to Manila. It was a fun trip, through verdant mountains, colorful farmland and flooded towns, with plenty of chichiria and souvenir shopping along the way. We left Legaspi at noon and arrived in Manila in time for a late supper. And the whole trip cost us less than the gouging price quoted by the unremembered discount airline.

The moral of the story? First, don’t count on discounted fare when flights are cancelled due to "force majeure." Second, know your options.

And speaking of discounted fares, be sure you know what your options are when traveling in the United States and Europe. The cost of a seat may seem like a great bargain, until they slap you with extra charges for baggage.

Read the small print. On a recent flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas, we took Spirit Airlines, billed as "cheaper than Southwest." Indeed it was, except for the extra charges for check-in and carry-on baggage (excluding briefcase or handbag). If you added these charges to the price of the ticket, you might as well pay regular fare.

Being experienced travelers, my wife and I simply crammed our overnights in her handbag and my briefcase. That way, we avoided the extra charges. And, yes, we made sure we had a hefty breakfast before taking off, to avoid eating on board.

And talking about eating on board, if it’s a long flight, make sure you have enough provisions to keep you well-nourished. The prices of sandwiches, chips and drinks are no bargain.

But that’s the tradeoff when you decide to fly "budget." You can expect "company policy" to be pro-company and anti-customer when it comes to a crunch.

And don’t waste your saliva berating airport personnel, the way that movie star couple did at the NAIA. There’s nothing they can do to help. In fact, it is "company policy" to post folks at the counter who can’t do anything about your problem. Those who can help (if they care to) are back at corporate headquarters, planning the expansion of the business to the international market and formulating more pro-company "company policies."

I’m inclined to believe airline ground personnel undergo special confrontation training before being dispatched to the airport. Perhaps, 12 hours of intensive shouting by irate passengers for entry-level positions. To get a promotion, they must undergo another 12 hours of shouting and abuse by showbiz couples.

In sum, if you still plan to fly cheap, whether in the Philippines or overseas, forget about checking in your luggage. That could find its way to Singapore, if you’re headed for Hong Kong. Forget about heavy carry-on. Cram your undies, t-shirts, socks and hankies in your handbags and wear your suit (the one you plan to use for your speaking engagement).

Give yourself enough leeway in case of flight cancellation -- from a few hours to a few days. In this regard, get used to sleeping at the airport. Airport floors are comfortable if you prop your head on your bag. Airport seats are also great for sleeping if you’re a contortionist.

Make sure you’re headed for the right destination when you board the plane. There’s a significant difference between flying to Hawaii and flying to Paoay.

Forget about screaming at airport personnel. Airline management purposely hires the deaf and dumb, as well as recipients of the Red Badge of Courage, to handle customer complaints.

If you’re a chivalrous broadcaster who happens to overhear the screaming of movie star couples at airport personnel, mind your own business.

This way, flying will always be more fun (in the Philippines or anywhere in the world).


The Roxas Solution


May 9, 2012

Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas begged local airlines Tuesday to re-align their domestic daylight flight schedules from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and not to mount new or additional flights out of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) while the government is studying the best solution to address the problem.

“There will be a re-balance or re-schedule of domestic flights so as to shift bulk of the load to off-peak from peak hours,” Roxas said.

“Until these measures are realized, there will be no approvals for new flights. We don’t want to worsen the problem. Until we sort out the current problem and institute the capacity buildup measures, there will be no new flights,” Roxas added.

One of the immediate solutions found was the transfer of general aviation traffic to Sangley airport in Cavite but they are scheduled for implementation in June.

"Domestic flights account for 80 of load of runway. This is the biggest part of the challenge, so we will cut in that area." says Roxas.who propose “burden-sharing ways to address congestion” at NAIA's runway.

“For instance, commercial flight arrivals and departures will be batched or grouped together to improve runway usage.  The plan is from 7 to 7:15 a.m., 10 takeoffs will be allowed followed by 10 landings at 7:15 to 7:30 a.m. This translates to an additional two to four movements per hour.” he said.
Roxas further declared that NAIA airport landing is a “Captain’s Runway,” meaning only captains can take off from or land on the runway.  Currently, first officers are allowed to facilitate flight takeoff of an aircraft as part of their training.  With this measure, only the pilot-in-command has full control during takeoffs and landings, ensuring that a flight is within the average of 100 seconds per movement.

Another solution is for DOTC to turn 14 provincial airports into night-rated airports, which would require a budget of P800 million, excluding operational expenses. These airports are Tagbilaran, Legazpi, Dumaguete, Butuan, Ozamis, Cotabato, Naga, Dipolog, Roxas, Pagadian, Tuguegarao, Busuanga, Surigao and San Jose, Mindoro.

Existing airports with night capabilities are Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod, Kalibo, Tacloban, Puerto Princesa, Zamboanga, General Santos and Laoag.

Another idea propose by DOTC is to encourage night flights, fees for takeoffs and landings during the evening will be reduced, while fees for the daytime will be increased. Fees for slots between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. will double while fees for slots from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. will be reduced by 25%.
But one industry source said the best solution was already found. Installation of next generation radar equipment to maximize landing and takeoff at NAIA. Only that the government failed to implement it and airlines are suffering the direct consequence of their incompetence and sheer greed.

The $200-million Communications, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) systems for the Philippine airport network was shelved for further audit after the Arroyo Administration padded the contract to cost P220 million more.  Had they been installed it would have alleviated the current congestion at the airport as it will allow 45 flights to come in.

The same sentiments was echoed by Cebu Pacific chieftain Lance Gokongwei when he told Roxas his suggestion was counter productive to business and tourism.

Avelino Zapanta, president of Southeast Asian Airlines, earlier asked why the government is penalizing carriers for its incompetency. “The airlines invest so much in buying airplanes, then you will reduce their utilization?” he said.

During the close door meeting Tuesday, Airline owners from PAL, Cebu Pacific and Zest Air laid out their plans to decongest NAIA on peak hours, and none except PAL is following the Secretary's cue.

Meanwhile, The terminal fee for domestic flights will be included in the airline tickets starting August 1, says Roxas. 



May 4, 2012
THE Philippines is maximizing its gains by streamlining its procedures and addressing safety concerns on the way to regaining Category 1 status. It has been five years since the Philippines was downgraded to the second tier level and there seems to be a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

In my previous column of March 23, I mentioned that solving the technical problems pointed out by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is quite easy. What is difficult and more subtle to address is the political and economic aspects of the problem.

The recent announcement by Philippine Airlines (PAL) to drop Airbus for Boeing wide bodies like the B777 and B787 seems the right path to take if the Philippines is to gain sympathy from the Americans.

Remember that the US economy is in depression or just recovering. PAL’s refleeting with newer B747-800, rather than the A380 sends the right signal to the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, whose dominance is now being threatened by Airbus.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) can also lend a helping hand by buying replacements for radars and other high-value navigational equipment from the US. Right now, the radar being used by the CAAP is the old Thales model from France and its subsidiaries. Maybe an American-made replacement would soften the FAA stance and give us the Category 1 nod, since, according to the CAAP, most of the issues noted by the FAA have been addressed.

PAL plans to acquire up to 100 new aircraft over the next five years.

Ramon Ang, the new president and CEO, said the new aircraft would come in the form of regional single-aisle planes like the Airbus A320 and its higher capacity variant, the A321, as well as longer-range wide-body jets.

He said the 100 aircraft will include those that they will buy to replace the old ones currently in their fleet.

Ang said PAL’s expansion plans would hinge on the government’s ability to restore the country to “Category 1” status with the US FAA. The US agency downgraded the Philippines’ status to Category 2 five years ago due to concerns about the local regulator’s ability to enforce safety standards.

Because of this, PAL has been unable to replace the aging B747 aircraft on its lucrative trans-Pacific routes with more fuel-efficient B777 twin-engine wide-body jets, of which it has two in its fleet.
Ang said PAL will use its resources to help the government regain Category 1 status. “We will help the Civil Aviation Administration of the Philippines where we can.”

With the planned refleeting and the restoration of the Category 1 status, the PAL chief said the airline would have no problem in regaining market share that was lost to low cost carriers, as well as boosting revenues and earnings.

Finger pointing NAIA inefficiency

 May 3, 2012

Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas was right when he blamed over the weekend the tight scheduling of airlines as cause for delays in passenger flights currently experienced by NAIA passengers.

Roxas claimed that the normal turnaround time of single aisle jet (A319/320) is one hour but budget airlines squeezes more time to enable it to fly 30 minutes earlier. He said that such tight scheduling doesn't pose a problem if they are operating in not so busy airport. But operating at NAIA poses a challenge as Cebu Pacific would always find out as most of their turn around flight arrives late affecting the time schedule of subsequent flights.

He further claimed airlines to be booking most flights during peak hours.

The only remedy he said is to reduce flight frequency. But how?

Philippine Airlines is cool to the proposal. They easily have the capability to upgrade the equipment.

But Zest Airways is not receptive to the idea propounded by DOTC claiming the government has no clue how to enforced flight reduction, and that reducing airlines' flights would bring about a "grandfather issue."

"Who among us will reduce flights? If I only mount twice a week flights to a certain route as against the daily flights of a bigger carrier, will both of us reduce the same number of flights?" said Art Alejandrino, a director of ZestAir.

Cebu Pacific who has the most number of flights out of NAIA argued the proposal flawed as it is not feasible on economic grounds.

Image courtesy to Arlene Pasaje
The airline instead insisted that aviation officials should come up with a well-managed airport slotting, which dictates the specific time an airline is to land and take off from NAIA, to prevent congestion. It also called the attention of DOTC to quickly equip secondary airports around the country with ILS (instrument landing system) equipment to allow them to handle night flights to ease congestion. 

Cebu Pacific said this would allow airlines to spread out their flights throughout the day to the airports like Legaspi, Naga, Caticlan, Dumaguete, Butuan among other airport which have multiple flights but whose airport cannot host flights after sunset.
Cebu Pacific further said that government failed to resolved and relocate general aviation traffic sooner despite previous findings that they wasted too much time on approach, landing, and occupancy at the runway creating delay at the airport.  General aviation (Genav) was known in the study to account 20 percent to 25 percent of all the takeoff and landing slots at NAIA per day.

The airline further said that NAIA is the only busy airport in Southeast Asia allowing genav airplanes to mix with commercial jetliners.

Southeast Asia Airlines supported Cebu Pacific position on the transfer.

 "The DOTC must have the political will to transfer general aviation out of NAIA. These small aircraft with usually less than five passengers eat up some 17% of total takeoffs and landings. Imagine the benefit to the economy if each of those flights is replaced with 158 or more passenger-configured aircraft. Why remove the bigger contributor to the economy?" Zapanta said.

MIAA previously disclosed that commercial aircraft pays more takeoff and landing fees as compared to small aircraft’s which uses the same amount of time to land or take off at NAIA.

There are 553 aircraft movements daily at NAIA on the average, with 450 (65%) planes using NAIA’s primary runway 06-24, while another 103 (35%) takes the airport’s secondary runway 13-31.

SEAIR further argued that MIAA is supposed to install the satellite-based radar 5 years ago but even bidding for said project has not been started yet.

"Whose to blame for that, airlines too?" laments Zapanta.

NAIA presently handles between 27 and 30 airplanes per hour.

Director General Ramon S. Gutierrez said the separation between airplanes is about three to five minutes because NAIA is still using the old Air Traffic Management system.

The Communications/Navigation System-Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) project designed to reduce separation time to close to 1 minute or around 60 flights per hour has been sent to the back burner for extensive review of contract, having been awarded at the time of the previous administration. 
Gutierrez said the radar would be in place some two to three years from now. The CNS/ATM is a satellite-based air traffic control system where approach to airports is guided by satellite and aircraft computers.

In a joint meeting Monday, CAAP, MIAA and CAB issued a joint declaration on how to address NAIA's congestion problem deciding that the most pressing move to reduce congestion would be to compel domestic airlines to reduce their schedules or scale down the frequency of their flights during peak traffic hours, which are between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. It was also suggested that airlines devote standby planes to cater for delayed flights as they are already on the ground.
Gutierrez said around 45 takeoffs and landings are scheduled per hour at NAIA, during peak hours, higher than the airport's ideal capacity of 36 flights per hour.

 It was also decided that general aviation and flying school will no longer be accepted and renewed at the country's premier airport after their contract expires this year. All of them will be relocated to nearby Sangley Airport, which will be redeveloped for general aviation traffic.

Sangley airport currently host the Philippine Air Force 15th Strike Wing and repair yard of the Philippine Navy, boast a 2,367-meter runway that is ideal for general aviation and commuter traffic.

The Sydney-based Airport Coordination Australia (ACA) was awarded the handling of airline schedules of NAIA since March, but the three government agencies concerned have yet to complete submission of all airline schedules as of this writing for the summer and winter schedules. ACA allows about 40 to 50 runway occupancies per hour better than CAAP computations.

Zest Air Flies Jinjiang

Develops Manila Hub again

May 2, 2012

Zest Air is financing redevelopment of Terminal 4 for international traffic.
Zest Air now flies direct from Manila to Quanzhou, Jinjiang, China in what could be the airlines second attempt to work out Manila hub as it plans to schedule more flights this year to Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore routes.

“Manila-Jinjiang will be operated three (3) times a week every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and will be increased accordingly depending on market demand,” says Zest Air president and CEO Alfredo M. Yao.

The two hour and a half flight leaves in Manila at 9:10 in the morning and arrives Quanzhou, Jinjiang International Airport at 11:30 a.m. The return flight to Manila leaves at 2:00 in the afternoon and arrives in Manila at 4:30 pm.

Zest Air operates at Terminal 4 (Manila Domestic Airport) and  flies to over 25 domestic and international destinations, 19 domestic destinations such as Boracay via Kalibo, Bacolod, Busuanga, Calbayog, Cagayan De Oro, Catarman, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Legazpi, Manila, Masbate, Marinduque, Puerto Princesa, San Jose Mindoro, Tablas, Tacloban, Tagbilaran, Virac.

Zest Air international flights operate temporarily at Terminal 3 pending  redevelopment of Terminal 4 for  international operations.

The airline flies from Cebu and Kalibo to Incheon and Pusan in Korea, Shanghai and Beijing in China, and Taipei, Taiwan .