Cebu Pacific, Zest Air likely to get new UAE flight entitlements

By Lenie Lectura, BusinessMirror

Posted at Sep 25 2012 09:36 AM | Updated as of Sep 25 2012 06:10 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) is likely to split between two carriers the 14 additional United Arab Emirates (UAE) flight entitlements that the Philippine air panel recently clinched with its counterpart in the Gulf state, according to a source.

Based on an application filed and received by the CAB, Cebu Air Inc., operator of Cebu Pacific, applied for all 14 entitlements.

This was confirmed by the airline’s vice president for marketing and distribution Candice Iyog who said UAE is part of the budget airline’s roster of new long-haul destinations for 2013. “If granted, we could fly double daily to UAE, assuming we get the 14 rights,” she said.

Zest Airways, Inc., meanwhile, applied for seven flight entitlements to the UAE, said Butch Rodriguez, the airline’s senior vice president for commercial and external affairs in a text message.

CAB legal head Elben Moro, however, noted that the agency has yet to see the application of Zest Air. “I don’t know if they already filed but if they did I haven’t seen it yet,” she said last Friday. “But Cebu Pacific has filed its application; that I already saw.”

A source said the CAB is likely to award seven UAE entitlements to Cebu Pacific and another seven to Zest Air. “That’s what we were told by the CAB but, of course, until it is awarded we can’t be 100-percent sure,” the source, privy to the recent air talks between the Philippines and UAE, said.

Moro said it will take time before the flight entitlements are awarded to the applicants. “First, we will set a hearing. We will also ask them to submit their position papers. The board will then deliberate so the decision on which carrier’s application will be approved and how many will be allotted will take time,” explained the CAB official.

On September 5 and 6, the Philippines successfully amended its air pact with the UAE, doubling the Manila flight entitlements to 28 weekly flights in each country.

Prior to the grant of additional 14 entitlements, about 14 were already allocated to Philippine Airlines (PAL). However, the flag carrier operates this service through a code-share arrangement.

Gokongwei-owned Cebu Pacific is pursuing a case before the CAB to reconsider an earlier order which junked its request to recall some of PAL’s flight entitlements to the Middle East the airline stopped direct flight services.

Cebu Pacific argued that since PAL is no longer mounting direct flights then the CAB might as well reallocate these to airlines in need of entitlements.

Moro said the motion for reconsideration filed by Cebu Pacific is still pending with the board. “We are still in the process of hearing the case. There is no final decision yet,” she said.

PAL flies 14 times a week to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, eight times a week to Bahrain, and seven times a week to Doha, Qatar. The carrier stopped its direct flights to UAE in 1998. PAL also cancelled its Manila-Riyadh route in March 2011.

Cebu Pacific needs these entitlements for its long-haul operations set to open in the third quarter of next year. Aside from the Middle East, it is also considering flying to parts of Europe, Australia and the United States.

Cebu Pacific earlier filed with the CAB a petition to launch Oman flights from airports in Manila and Clark. “We have asked for a deferral of Oman air talks to next year. Our priority now is to get air rights for UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Iyog said.