MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) can start flying direct to Europe starting July 12, the European Commission (EC) announced Wednesday.
The EC, the executive body of the 28 member-state European Union, announced the lifting of the ban on PAL flights in its updated "EU air safety list".
PAL is the first airline from the Philippines allowed back into European skies since 2010 following improvements in aviation safety in the country, the commission said in a statement.
"The EU air safety list was created for the protection of European skies and citizens, but it can also serve as a wake-up call to countries and airlines in need to get their safety house back in order," EC Vice-President Siim Kallas said. "Today we confirmed our willingness to remove Philippines airlines from the list as they show real commitment and capacity to implement international safety standards in a sustainable manner."
The EC decision was based on its assessments of PAL's ability to follow aviation safety regulations, as well as on-site safety reviews.
The decision to lift the ban on PAL was unanimous, the commission said.
Today's Commission decision was based on the unanimous opinion of the EU Air Safety Committee in which safety experts from each of the 28 Member States participate, as well as from Norway , Iceland , Switzerland, and EASA.
"This is a confirmation of the great work performed by our Filipino partners, especially [Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines] and Philippines Airlines, in addressing air safety issues. It is a real pleasure to congratulate [CAAP Director General William] Hotchkiss and his team personally for the extraordinary work they have done," European Union Ambassador Guy Ledoux said.
PAL TO RESUME FLIGHTS TO LONDON, PARIS
Ramon Ang, president and chief operating officer of PAL, welcomed the EC's decision.
"The lifting by the European Union of the ban on PAL to fly to Europe is another testimony to PAL's reputation as a safe airline," he said in a statement.
Ang said this was the result of the Philippine government's efforts in addressing aviation industry safety concerns.
He said PAL plans to expand its international route network in Europe as the flag carrier returns to popular destinations as London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rome and Madrid.
"When we fly back to Europe after an absence of 15 years, we can boast of a newer fleet of aircraft and top quality customer service. More than providing Filipinos living and working in Europe with the most direct link to Manila, we hope to bring the best of the Philippines to Europe and the best of Europe to the Philippines," he added.
Ang said PAL can provide better service to passengers in the face of stiff competition with other carriers.
"PAL has entitlement of 7 flights a week to London, 6 to 7 flights a week to Paris. We have to review our agreement with other countries," he said in a press conference Wednesday.
Hotchkiss, meanwhile, expects US aviation authorities to follow the EU's lead and possibly upgrade the Philippines' aviation category before the end of the year.
The Palace said the EU's decision to lift its ban on PAL is "a sign of improvement in Philippine aviation standards."
It commended CAAP and the Department of Transportation and Communications.
"This is good news for PAL, and is a sign of the improvement in Philippine aviation standards," said Secretary Ricky Carandang of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO).
Cebu Pacific, meanwhile, said it plans to take part in an EU Air Safety Commission meeting later this year.
According to the EC, all air carriers from the Philippines were banned from the EU in March 2010 following very poor results from an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) audit in 2009.
Two more ICAO audits were held in October 2012 and February 2013 before the commission held an on-site inspection in June this year. - with reports from Henry Atuelan, dzMM; ANC