ZestAir, Air Asia To Launch Rebranded Airline in 2 Months

By Lawrence Agcaoili, The Philippine Star



MANILA, Philippines – The partnership between Zest Airways Inc. and AirAsia Inc. is set to launch a rebranded airline within the next two months.

AirAsia Philippines president and chief executive officer Maan Hontiveros told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of the 1st Aviation Safety and Good Corporate Governance Symposium that the rebranded airline arising from the strategic partnership entered into by both airlines last May could be launch either in September or October.

“I was hoping by September or October. We want them (ZestAir) to carry the AirAsia brand and color as well,” Hontiveros stressed.

She pointed out that both airlines are just awaiting the green light from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and other agencies.

She said AirAsia and ZestAir have been strandardizing their operations over the past few months.

“We are already also standardizing our operations even the uniform of ZestAir is moving towards the red color. We’d like to project ourselves as belonging to one family with the same standards of service,” she added.

According to her, certain operations of both AirAsia and ZestAir would be merged such as commercial marketing as well as backroom operations and human resources development.

Hontiveros said AirAsia would continue to operate as a separate airline from ZestAir.

“AirAsia will be operated as AirAsia while ZestAir will be operated as ZestAir. The operations are still separate as ZestAir will continue to operate in its Manila, Kalibo and Cebu hubs while AirAsia will continue to operate out of Clark,” she explained.

She added both airlines would have separate Airline Operators’ Certificate (AOC) from the CAAP.

“Zest has a brand name in the Philippines that is bigger than AirAsia as they have operated longer and they are operating in so many provinces. But I think the Airasia brand is very valuable,” Hontiveros said.

According to her, the rebranded airline would carry the names of both ZestAir and AirAsia.

Lifting of US Restrictions on PH Airlines Seen

Source : Philippine Daily Inquirer by Miguel Camus


The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) remains confident that US aviation regulators will lift restrictions imposed on local carriers by the fourth quarter of 2013, but concerns over the sustainability of recent reforms linger.

Key “showstoppers” include the difficulty in amending the law that would grant added autonomy to CAAP while overcoming restrictions that prevent CAAP from spending for the continuous training of safety inspectors,  CAAP director general William Hotchkiss III said at a forum on Friday.

Hotchkiss said a team of US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors was in the country and “all indications are positive towards a possible upgrade before the end of the year” and possibly as early as October.

“Remaining hurdles will have to address the sustainability issue,” Hotchkiss said on the sidelines of the country’s first aviation safety and good corporate governance forum.

This was the second time the FAA sent a team after the US regulator and CAAP signed a technical assistance program last June 4, which calls for a two-year monitoring period.

This means that if reforms are not in line with what have been agreed upon, the FAA could return the Philippines to Category 2 status, again preventing local carriers from expanding flights in the United States.

Only flag carrier Philippine Airlines mounts flights to the US, however, its ability to expand there is limited by current restrictions.

CAAP has been calling for an amendment to Republic Act 9497 to include provisions that would authorize the government to transfer its so-called state of registry obligations to the state of the operator as well as to create a separate agency to handle aircraft accident investigations.

“Although multiple bills to establish a National Transportation Safety Board have been proposed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, none have received priority or passage,” Hotchkiss said in his speech before industry stakeholders.

As noted, another key hurdle involved the continuous training of safety inspectors.

“CAAP has the necessary funds to support the recurrent training,” Hotchkiss said. “However, government accounting rules disallow release of funds for training of contractual employees who make up the majority of our experienced inspector corps.”

Reforms by CAAP have helped remove the Philippines from a European Union blacklist on July 12.  But it still faces several challenges, said Mokhtar Awan,  Asia Pacific regional director of  International Civil Aviation Organization, during the same forum.

He cited CAAP’s difficulties in hiring and keeping qualified technical personnel, its modernization, and even “negative” media reporting. On the autonomy issue, he said that CAAP “is still in transition.”

“Safety oversight is a state’s responsibility. However, this cannot be achieved solely by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines without the political support from the government of the Philippines,” Awan said.

The EU ban had been in place since 2010, a year after the Icao found “significant safety concerns” in the country’s aviation standards. The Philippines passed the Icao audit in February, and this led to the lifting of the ban on Philippine Airlines last month.

The FAA downgrade, meanwhile, was imposed in 2008.

UA Flight Returns to MNL Due To Overheated Engine


Source: http://www.philstar.com/Camille Diola

MANILA, Philippines – A United Airlines flight bound for Guam returned to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila after experiencing mechanical problems while on air on Wednesday.

NAIA-Media Affairs Division reported that Flight UA 184 was earlier scheduled to depart from Manila to Guam via Honolulu, Hawaii at 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday, but was delayed for 33 minutes.

Its pilot, however, was forced to maneuver back to NAIA after the plane’s right engine overheated.

The aircraft touched ground at NAIA Terminal 1 at 2:51 a.m. on Wednesday.

None of the 125 passengers was reported hurt.

The airline billeted some passengers in nearby hotels or asked them to rebook to other flights.

Cebu Pacific Wants PHL-JPN Open Skies Deal

Source: GMA News Online




Cebu Air Inc., operator of budget carrier Cebu Pacific, is urging the Aquino administration to forge an open skies policy with Japan as a way of boosting trade and tourism and reverse a decline in Japanese tourists to the Philippines.

An open skies agreement between the bilateral partners should be tackled in the upcoming air talks with Japan under the Philippine Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), a Cebu Pacific official said.
“An Open Skies agreement with Japan will benefit local tourism and trade, especially since we believe Japan can rival South Korea when it comes to foreign tourist arrivals,” vice president for marketing and distribution Candice Iyog noted in a statement Wednesday.
In a position paper filed with the Philippine Air Consultation Panel, the Cebu Pacific said carriers from the Philippines would not be able to mount additional flights to other countries including Japan in the absence of seat entitlements as Philippine authorities struggle to increase capacity at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Seat entitlements must be given by other countries like Japan so airlines can increase flights or add international destinations, according to the budget airline.
An open skies deal with Japan would let Cebu Pacific to expand its Japan operations beyond the thrice weekly Manila-to-Osaka flights. “Cebu Pacific plans to aggressively expand into Japan in the future. We fully support the CAB in its efforts to further boost tourism and the Philippine aviation industry,” Iyog said.
Japan could dislodge Korea as a major source of tourists for the Philippines, the airline official noted.
Official data showed a 2 percent compounded drop in tourist arrivals from Japan in 2006 to 2011, primarily in the absence of new seat entitlements.
“Aside from Japan being one of the Philippines’ biggest trading partners, it is also home to 350,000 global Filipinos. Cebu Pacific’s expansion in Japan will allow us to offer our trademark lowest fares to the Philippines to boost business and leisure traffic,” Iyog said..
Japan, once one of the most protective aviation sectors in the world, has signed Open Skies agreements with countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, France, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, US, Canada, and Mexico.
CAB Deputy Executive Director Porvenir Porciuncula told reporters Wednesday the PHL-Japan Air Consultation Talks is scheduled for Sept. 11 to 13 in Tokyo.
The Philippine panel hopes to secure additional seat entitlements for Philippine carriers to mount additional flights to Japan, Porciuncula said.
The Philippines and Japan last held air talks in 2008. — VS, GMA News

Bidding for Mactan-Cebu International Airport Deferred





Unresolved commercial issues have prompted the government to defer the Aug. 28 bidding for its first airport public private partnership (PPP) deal—the Mactan-Cebu International Airport—as it seeks to avoid a repeat of the poor reception seen during the bidding for the Light Rail Transit Line-1 extension, government officials and Inquirer sources said on Tuesday.

The government is finalizing the key concession agreement to take into account recent one-on-one sessions with seven prequalified bidders and a draft could be ready this Friday, PPP Center executive director Cosette Canilao told the INQUIRER.

The P17.5-billion rehabilitation, expansion and operation project includes the construction of a new world-class international passenger terminal building that can handle eight million passengers a year, double the Mactan-Cebu airport’s current capacity.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said separately that the government would give the private sector at least 30 days to prepare once the concession agreement has been issued, which could place the bid openings around the end of September.

However, Canilao said some of the bidders had requested more time, from 45 days to 75 days. She noted that the DoTC, which is implementing the project, would decide on the final date.

“There were varied concerns and clarifications from different bidders on the technical and financial aspects,” Canilao said.

Among these, she noted, were minimum performance and specification standards as well as commercial issues like Duty Free operations, local government unit actions and real property taxes.

Three bidders interviewed by the INQUIRER, but on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss strategies with the media, said the delay was caused by the lack of clarity on several commercial issues.

They said the technical aspects have “mostly been answered.”

Other bidders sought clarification on the operations of the Duty Free store, a potentially significant revenue source, as well as restrictions on developing property within the airport complex.

Duty Free stores in the countries are operated by the Department of Tourism, based on Republic Act 9593.

In New Plan, Baguio Airport Likely to Take-Off Again


News Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer


BAGUIO CITY—The city’s only airport, once recommended for closure, is being planned as an interisland facility by tourism and economic development officials.

Instead of pursuing commercial airlines that service Metro Manila, the Loakan Airport is being developed for smaller airplanes flying to and from destinations like Batanes, Cebu and Davao, according to a two-year market and development study conducted by the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC).

Purificacion Molintas, regional director of the Department of Tourism, said interisland flights are suitable for the Loakan Airport, which former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo proposed to close in April 2007.

Arroyo then said the airport could be converted into an extension of the Baguio City Economic Zone, which hosts top exporter Texas Instruments Philippines Inc., after observing that major airlines had stopped using the Loakan Airport because Baguio’s erratic weather and afternoon fog made the trips dangerous.

Airlines also maintain fleets of planes, which are too big for the Baguio airport, which was built in 1934. The major airlines could not also subsidize the small Baguio market.

Arroyo proposed to divert all flights meant for Baguio City to the San Fernando City airport in La Union province, which was primed as an international airport serving northern Luzon.

Arroyo, however, withdrew this plan in 2008, after businessmen lobbied against Loakan’s closure.

The upgrading of the La Union airport at Poro Point, meanwhile, had not proceeded as scheduled because of legal issues over land, as well as economic feasibility concerns, including its proximity to the Clark International Airport, government documents showed.

Antonio Caluza, RDC member representing the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers, said the RDC study and a 2013 market survey covering January to July concluded that a small interisland fleet of airplanes would not need a redesigned Baguio airport, although the Loakan airport may need to be widened from its current 40 meters to 60 m.

The prospects of a shorter trip from Metro Manila to Baguio were also studied, with the construction of a Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) that would link the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) to roads leading to Baguio, Caluza said.

TPLex would cut the six- to seven-hour drive from Metro Manila to Baguio down to three to four hours, which would encourage more bus trips instead of flights, Molintas said.

But she said the interisland market involves people who prefer to fly. She said Luzon commuters have been used to bus rides and long road trips being part of landlocked communities, but flying is the top choice of travel for commuters from the Visayas and Mindanao, based on the RDC survey.

Foreign tourists also prefer flying to a remote destination, instead of enduring long bus rides, she said. “This is the type of [travel] behavior the Loakan airport would soon serve,” she said. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon


Source: Manila Bulletin


Emirates, one of the world’s largest airlines, announced it will launch its daily non-stop flights from Clark to Dubai on October 1, 2013 to cater to Filipinos and tourists whose destination is  Northern Luzon.

This move makes Emirates the only international full service     carrier operating westbound from Clark International Airport (CIA).  And with the Manila and Clark route, Emirates offers four daily operations between Dubai and the Philippines.

The award-winning airline, which flies to over 120 destinations worldwide, first flew to the Philippines in 1990 via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

This year, with the Philippines’ tourism efforts, the new gateway is in line with the country’s vision to attract 4.5 million annual tourists, which the government hopes to increase to 10 million by 2016.

“Filipinos now have the freedom to choose between Clark International Airport and Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which demonstrates our commitment to our customers,” said Gigie Baroa, Emirates Philippines’ country manager. “And with this new route, we are reaching more Filipinos who live in Northern Luzon, bringing them and their loved ones closer than ever.”

The Clark route will also serve as the new exit point for the millions of Filipinos working in the Middle East, which has the second largest number of temporary overseas Filipino population of around 2.7 million, with 1.5 million in Saudi Arabia and 680,000 in the UAE.

A two-class Boeing 777-300ER will operate on the new route. The two-class configuration variant allows the airline to add more seats to the aircraft in the economy and business classes while the aircraft’s first class will be scrapped.

Recently awarded ‘World’s Best Airline’ by Skytrax at the 2013 World Airline Awards, Emirates offers the best service in the business. Its world-renowned in-flight entertainment system, which includes Wi-Fi connectivity and the acclaimed ice Digital Widescreen entertainment, has also been awarded ‘World’s Best In-flight Entertainment’ for the ninth consecutive year.

Twin Airport Solution for PHL Aviation

By Jennifer A. Ng | BusinessMirror


clark_airportForeign businessmen called on the government to consider seriously the “twin-airport solution” that is anchored on making the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) more efficient while expanding the Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) made this proposal in a position paper it submitted recently to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). “We call on the DOTC to seriously consider the so-called twin airports, an option based on the coexistence and improvement of both Clark and the Naia,” the JFC said. “While we recognize that the DOTC is also looking at the option of closing the Naia in favor of a new international gateway airport, we do believe that both aviation hubs would share a ‘symbiotic relationship’ that benefits the domestic and foreign traveling public,” the foreign businessmen added.

They said the twin-airport solution is the best solution to accommodate the future growth of Philippine aviation. The JFC said improving the Naia and expanding Clark is made all the more critical by the plan of the government to attract 10 million tourists by 2016. The JFC noted that modernizing and improving the efficiency of the Naia and steadily expanding Clark will allow the convenience of executive travel at the Naia and cater best to the growth of the tourism industry, especially through budget travel.

The foreign businessmen said the upgrade of the Naia should include the modernization of all its four terminals, including its navigational equipment for passenger safety, comfort and convenience. “Projects in Clark would include the rapid expansion of the budget terminal, construction of a gateway terminal and installation of complete navigational equipment,” the JFC said. While they recognize that access to Clark is currently a problem, foreign businessmen said they “strongly believe” that plans for faster land transportation connections between Makati and Clark should be implemented.

The JFC pointed to the experience of Tokyo and Shanghai, two large Asian metropolises that are served by two international airports. Tokyo, for one, has developed Narita International Airport and restricted Haneda International Airport largely to domestic flights. In Shanghai, China, the Pudong International Airport serves international passengers while Hongqiao International Airport serves both international and domestic passengers. The JFC said it also supports the development of the Manila Entertainment City project. “With plans for as many as 8,000 hotel rooms in four gaming/entertainment complexes intended eventually to be larger than Las Vegas, it is important to consider the convenience of foreign destination travelers in quickly transiting to the new complex on the Naia Expressway Phase 2 link with Naia Terminal 3,” the JFC said.

Philippines Target More Saudi Tourists





The catchy “It’s more fun in the Philippines” promotional scheme launched by Philippine Airlines (PAL) to attract tourists seems to be paying off, particularly with PAL poised to resume flights to the Kingdom beginning in December.

The number of tourist arriving from Saudi Arabia is expected to go up dramatically with PAL scheduled to operate flights to and from Riyadh starting Dec. 1 and to and from Dammam on Dec. 4. PAL has also thrown in incentives for those who book on or before the scheduled dates to lure tourists from the Kingdom.

The turnaround can be attributed to the current administration’s performance in terms of economic recovery and good governance restoring confidence not only among investors but also tourist

s visiting the country from across the world, said Datu Camad M. Ali, executive president, Southern Philippines Muslim-Non Muslim Unity & Development Association Inc. (SPMUDA), an International NGO based in the Philippines promoting Philippine tourism through its global network.

According to the Tourism Research and Statistics Division (TRSD) at the Philippine Tourism Department (DOT), visitor arrivals in January to March reached a record high of 1.27 million, including 30,000 from Saudi Arabia, a 10.76 percent increase from 1.15 million arrivals for the corresponding period in 2012.

Likewise, visitor arrivals for March saw a double-digit increase of 11.28 percent with 417,392 visitors compared to the previous year’s volume of 375,083. This is the fourth consecutive month that the volume of arrivals passed the 400,000 mark.

This upward trend could be attributed to the upcoming summer season, which is a peak season for the tourism industry.

This is the second time under Benigno S. Aquino’s administration that the tourism sector has been able to maintain 1 million arrivals for the first quarter of the year, Ali told Arab News.

Based on this record, the country could reach its annual tourists ar

rival target of 5.5 million by the end of 2013. The same report showed that South Korea remains the leading tourist destination followed by the United States.

The “It’s more fun in the Philippines” program has shown a positive outcome in the tourism sector that actively promoted nature and adventure, beaches, multi-culture, lifestyle and water sports activities in the country.

The country’s tourism agency for the first time participated in the 5th Riyadh Travel Fair 2013 that took place in April. Manila had allocated 13 billion pesos to develop what it calls “Tourism Roads” all over the country. The Philippines is the third largest English-speaking country in the world. It has a rich history combining Asian, European and American influences. Prior to Spanish colonization in 1521, the Filipinos had a rich culture and were trading with the Chinese and the Japanese.

Spain’s colonization brought about the construction of Intramuros in 1571, a “Walled City” comprising European buildings and churches, replicated in different parts of the archipelago.

In 1898, after 350 years and 300 rebellions, the Filipinos, with leaders like Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo, succeeded in winning their independence


Cebu Pacific Mulls flights to Doha

ImageSource: Joey Aguilar

Cebu Pacific, the biggest low-cost airlines in the Philippines, is mulling flights to Doha, ambassador Crescente Relacion has said.

It is the second Philippine airline to announce plans to fly to Qatar after flag-carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL).

CEB officials and some dignitaries are expected to visit the country this week.

“They are waiting for the approval of their visas,” Relacion told Gulf Times.

“The team will be meeting government and aviation officials in Doha.”

Considered as the largest carrier in the Philippines today, CEB is also one of the leading low-cost carriers in the Asian region.

The airline had earlier announced that it would start operating direct Manila-Dubai-Manila flights on October 7 this year. It will be the only Philippine airline to start direct flights to the UAE. Dubai will also be its first long-haul destination.

In a press statement, CEB announced that its Manila-Dubai daily flights are scheduled at 4.40pm (Manila time) while its Dubai-Manila flights will depart at 11:10pm (Dubai time).

The airline has 20 international destinations: Bangkok, Bali, Beijing, Brunei, Busan, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Incheon (Seoul), Jakarta, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Osaka, Shanghai, Siem Reap, Singapore, Taipei and Xiamen.

Besides the Middle East, CEB also wants to fly to other regions like Australia, parts of Europe and the US.

“The interest of CEB to fly to Qatar is a welcome development and I hope that their talks with the Qatari Aviation authorities will produce positive results,” said Relacion.

He added that the addition of CEB offers travellers, particularly OFWs, a wider choice.

PAL has already announced plans to fly daily to Doha starting November 2 in a bid to expand its network in the Middle East.

However, some airline industry sources said that the flag-carrier had yet to secure necessary permits for its flights to Doha.

Quoting PAL representatives in Qatar, Relacion disclosed that the airline had already submitted all documents to Qatar Aviation authorities.

“They told me they are working hard to meet their target date of launching,” he said.

PAL is expected to operate Manila-Doha-Manila flights six times a week.