PAL to seek exemption from European ban on PH carriers

By Lawrence Agcaoili, The Philippine Star

Posted at Dec 10 2012 07:00 AM | Updated as of Dec 10 2012 05:42 PM

TORONTO, Canada – National flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is set to ask the European Commission from an exemption from a ban on Philippine carriers from European airspace.

PAL vice president for marketing Felix Cruz said in an interview with reporters that the airline is seeking an exemption from the ban using its certification from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as well as its connections with European companies.

In April 2010, the 27-member European Commission decided to impose a ban on Philippine carriers including PAL from European airspace for the failure of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to reform the country’s civil aviation system.

“In the case of Europe, the airlines can work out an exemption unlike in the US where the ban is imposed on the country and not the airlines,” Cruz said.

He added that it could use the ISO certification issued by the IATA on PAL and the fact that the airline is maintained by Luftansa Technik AG of Germany.

In 2008, the safety rating of the Philippines was downgraded by the US Federal Aviation Administration upon the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to Category 2 from Category 1.

Category 2 indicates that the FAA had assessed that the Philippines’ civil aviation authority had failed to comply with ICAO safety standards for the oversight of air carrier operations. While in Category 2, Philippine air carriers are permitted to continue current operations to the US under heightened FAA surveillance.

Both decisions made by the European Commission and the FAA prevents airlines from the Philippines to mount additional flights to the US and Europe.

“We have issue in Category 2, it is preventing us from redoing our operations in the US and also affecting us in Europe,” he said.

Cruz said he is hopeful that the Category 2 status would finally be lifted by the US FAA after an audit to be conducted by the ICAO this coming February. “This coming February, there is an audit to be conducted by the US FAA. So we will know by February and once lifted will open the possibility to really maximize the utilization of our aircraft and our entitlements,” Cruz stressed.

PAL recently entered into a contract close to about $10 billion for the acquisition of 65 Airbus aircraft and has existing orders for the acquisition of six Boeing 777-300ER planes.

The first 10 Airbus planes of the 65-strong order is scheduled for delivery in 2013 while two more Boeing 777-300ER are scheduled to arrive in April and November next year.

“Hopefully if we get the Category 1from the US, it will trigger actually if we get exemptions from Europe. It will trigger either or, whichever come first,” he added.