AirAsia Plane Found On Sea Bed

An MH-60R helicopter, attached to the USS Sampson (DDG 102), approaches an Indonesian patrol vessel while searching for debris, during the Indonesian-led search and recovery operations for the downed AirAsia flight QZ8501, in the Java Sea in this December 31 handout photo released by the U.S. Navy. © Reuters

SURABAYA, Indonesia/JAKARTA (Reuters) — Indonesian rescuers believe they have found the wreck of a crashed AirAsia plane on the ocean floor off Borneo, after sonar detected a large, dark object beneath waters where debris and bodies were found floating.

Ships and planes had been scouring the Java Sea for Flight QZ8501 since Sunday, when it lost contact during bad weather about 40 minutes into its flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

Indonesian rescuers have recovered various bits of debris, including luggage, and seven bodies floating in shallow waters.

“It’s about 30 to 50 metres (100 to 165 feet) underwater,” Hernanto, head of the search and rescue agency in Surabaya, said of the object on the sea bed.

Authorities in Surabaya were making preparations to receive and identify bodies, including arranging 130 ambulances to take victims to a police hospital and collecting DNA from relatives.

“We are praying it is the plane so the evacuation can be done quickly,” Hernanto said.

Most of the people on board were Indonesians. No survivors have been found.

Officials said waves two to three metres (six to nine feet) high and winds were hampering the hunt for wreckage and preventing divers from searching the crash zone.

Among the bodies found on Wednesday was a flight attendant.

The fully clothed bodies could indicate the Airbus A320-200 was intact when it hit the water and support a theory that it suffered an aerodynamic stall.

“The fact that the debris appears fairly contained suggests the aircraft broke up when it hit the water, rather than in the air,” said Neil Hansford, a former pilot and chairman of consultancy firm Strategic Aviation Solutions.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said his priority was retrieving the bodies.

“I feel a deep loss over this disaster and pray for the families to be given fortitude and strength,” Widodo said in Surabaya on Tuesday after grim images of the scene in the Java Sea were broadcast on television.

Widodo said AirAsia would pay an immediate advance of money to relatives, many of whom collapsed in grief when they saw the television pictures from the search.

AirAsia Chief Executive Tony Fernandes has described the crash as his “worst nightmare”.

About 30 ships and 21 aircraft from Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the United States have been involved in the search.

Singapore said it was sending two underwater beacon detectors to try to pick up pings from the black boxes, which contain cockpit voice and flight data recorders.

The plane, which did not issue a distress signal, disappeared after its pilot failed to get permission to fly higher to avoid bad weather because of heavy air traffic.

It was travelling at 32,000 feet (9,753 metres) and had asked to fly at 38,000 feet. When air traffic controllers granted permission for a rise to 34,000 feet a few minutes later, they received no response.

Online discussion among pilots has centred on unconfirmed secondary radar data from Malaysia that suggested the aircraft was climbing at a speed of 353 knots, about 100 knots too slow, and that it might have stalled.

Investigators are focusing initially on whether the crew took too long to request permission to climb, or could have ascended on their own initiative earlier, said a source close to the inquiry, adding that poor weather could have played a part as well.

A Qantas pilot with 25 years of experience flying in the region said the discovery of the debris field relatively close to the last known radar plot of the plane pointed to an aerodynamic stall. One possibility is that the plane’s instruments iced up, giving the pilots inaccurate readings.

The Indonesian captain, former air force fighter pilot with 6,100 flying hours under his belt, was experienced and the plane last underwent maintenance in mid-November, said the airline, which is 49 percent owned by Malaysia-based budget carrier AirAsia.

Three airline disasters involving Malaysian-affiliated carriers in less than a year have dented confidence in the country’s aviation industry and spooked travellers.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing in March on a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew and has not been found. On July 17, the same airline’s Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

On board Flight QZ8501 were 155 Indonesians, three South Koreans, and one person each from Singapore, Malaysia and Britain. The co-pilot was French.

The AirAsia group, including affiliates in Thailand, the Philippines and India, had not suffered a crash since its Malaysian budget operations began in 2002.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review

What Caused Flight Delays On Christmas Day? Cebu Pacific Explains

MANILA – A bad mix of air traffic congestion and inclement weather during the holiday rush triggered chaos at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 on Christmas Day.

Juan Lorenzo Tañada, vice president for corporate affairs of Cebu Pacific, said apart from the high number of passengers heading to the provinces for Christmas, the airline had to adjust flight schedules due to the cancellation of several flights because of bad weather.

These factors led to long queues, flight delays and angry passengers at the airport.

“Christmas Day was really a big, big deluge that we experienced, but we experienced a lot of consequential flight delays because of the air traffic congestion. There was inclement weather in some regions and this resulted to a lot of flights being cancelled,” Tañada told ANC on Friday.

He said at least seven flights from Manila to Puerto Princesa, Virac, and Tuguegarao were affected by bad weather, resulting to flight backlogs since December 23.

He also cited the “sunset limitation” in some domestic airports as one of the reasons why flights were cancelled.

“Some of our major tourist destinations such as Busuanga are unable to accept aircraft after sunset,” he said.

Tañada said the overcrowding may have also been a result of overbooking, but he stressed that “overbooking is an internationally accepted aviation practice to have some buffer.”

Airlines are allowed to overbook flights by 10 percent to compensate for the “no-shows.”

Tañada noted that the airline is open to having talks with the Civil Aeronautics Board on policies regarding overbooking during peak seasons.

He also said Cebu Pacific personnel manning check-in and booking counters at the airport were subjected to fatigue after having to work long hours for the holiday peak season, and some came in late or did not report at all on Christmas Day.

“This resulted to some of them coming in late and some not coming at all on the 25th. Even the 26th, some were not able to make it on time or report at all,” he said.

However, Tañada said the airline was able to secure more staff and tapped manpower servicers to provide additional workers. Some international airline crew members were also detailed to domestic flights to give assistance.

Currently, 37 counters of Cebu Pacific are manned. The airline is assigned only 28, but it requested NAIA authorities to open more counters to address the long queues.

“Please try to go to the airport as early as possible and more than that, maybe we can take advantage also of other ways to check in, there are web check-in options and also check-ins via the kiosks available at the terminal. This will help alleviate any backlogs. We are assuring everyone that Cebu Pacific is doing all it can at this point to man our counters,” said Tañada.

He added that those who missed their flights will be given the option to rebook their flights within 30 days or request for refunds.

Source: Jon Carlos Rodriguez,

DOTC, CAB Not Satisfied with Cebu Pacific’s Explanation
A contingency plan should have be in place during peak seasons like Christmas and New Year to ensure passenger welfare, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya says.

MANILA, Philippines – Not satisfied.

That is the reaction of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to Cebu Air Inc’s (Cebu Pacific) explanation over its bungled holiday operations that saw a delay of the budget carrier’s 100 flights on Christmas Eve.

In a television interview, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said that Cebu Pacific should have prepared a contingency plan to accommodate and address the needs of passengers, particularly during the Christmas season.

Abaya also stressed the failure of the overworked staff of Cebu Pacific to perform efficiently during the holiday rush is not an acceptable reason.

An initial investigation showed that 142 flights were delayed on December 24 – 100 belonged to Cebu Pacific, MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado said during the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) hearing on the incident on Monday, December 29.

The check-in counters of Cebu Pacific were undermanned on that date resulting in long queues, Honrado added.

MIAA is also not buying Cebu Pacific’s excuse that the delays and flight cancellations were caused by air traffic congestion and bad weather, Honrado said.

As such, DOTC tasked CAB to look into the possible revisions of the Civil Aeronautics Act, including the Air Passenger Bill of Rights to protect the riding public.

Also, a panel was formed to look into the liability of Cebu Pacific amid the rising number of complaints from passengers following the December 24 delays and cancellations, CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said.

The panel, composed of CAB, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), and the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) is set to meet early January 2015 to look into the documents and reports to be submitted by Cebu Pacific.

“All of these 3 agencies oversee the airline operations, so the findings of this joint committee will be submitted to our respective board for evaluation and for regulations,” Abaya added.

On Sunday, December 28, Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares admonished his colleagues in the House of Representatives for failing to swiftly act on an earlier motion to launch a congressional probe into the supposedly excessive fares, delays, and dismal services of the Gokongwei-led budget carrier.

This early, CAB is looking at disallowing overbooking during peak seasons such as the Christmas holidays to avoid “bumping off” of passengers.

Airlines are currently allowed to overbook 10% of total seats to serve as buffer in case passengers fail to show on time.

The budget carrier earlier said that it will cooperate with any investigation to be undertaken by the government.

“We will fully cooperate with the CAB to address their inquiries,” Cebu Pacific Vice President for Corporate Affairs Jorenz Tanada said in a text message.


AirAsia Philippines Overshoots Kalibo Runway

Escape: Local journalist Jet Damazo-Santos was on board the plane and uploaded photographs to Twitter showing chaotic scenes as passengers were forced to disembark the aircraft on emergency slides

  • AirAsia passenger plane overshot Kalibo Airport in the Philippines
  • Passengers and crew forced to evacuate aircraft using emergency slide 
  • Incident was blamed on poor weather caused by tropical storm Seniang 
  • Nobody hurt, although elderly passengers had blood pressure checked
  • Comes just hours after 40 bodies from another AirAsia flight were found
  • Corpses and wreckage were discovered off the coast of Indonesia 

Chaotic scenes: Shoeless members of AirAsia cabin crew stand on the runway at Kalibo Airport, having removed their footwear to use the plane's inflatable slide

An AirAsia airliner has overshot the runway at an airport in the Philippines forcing passengers to make an urgent exit on emergency slides, it has been claimed.

The incident occured at Kalibo Airport in Aklan province and involved an Airbus A320-216 carrying 153 passengers and crew from the Filipino capital Manila.

Local journalist Jet Damazo-Santos was on board the plane and uploaded photographs to Twitter showing chaotic scenes as passengers were forced to disembark the aircraft on emergency slides.

‘Engine was shut immediately, we were told to leave bags, deplane asap. Firetruck was waiting,’ she said, adding that there appeared to be no injuries despite the plane coming to an ‘abrupt stop’.

The incident comes just hours after six bodies and wreckage were recovered from the sea off the Indonesian coast of Borneo Island following the disappearance of Air Asia flight 8501 on Sunday.

Describing the terrifying incident, Ms Damazo-Santos said: ‘Nobody seems to be hurt. Weather was bad because of #senangph [sic]. Plane came to a very abrupt stop.’

Her mention of bad weather refers to tropical storm Seniang, which has been battering the Philippines for several days.

She updated her Twitter account with a number of photographs taken in the aftermath of the incident, including images of elderly patients having their blood pressure checked and shoeless members of cabin standing on the runway, having removed their footwear to use the inflatable slide.

Ms Damazo-Santos said that her flight had been delayed by two hours after the poor weather at Kalibo Airport had earlier forced a plane from Cebu Pacific airlines to turn back to Manila.

With all passengers said to be safe, Ms Damazo-Santos said they now face a long wait to reclaim their luggage as officials insist the plane is towed to a parking area before it can be unloaded.

The journalist later wrote about her experience for the Filipino news website Rappler.

In a statement AirAsia said: ‘AirAsia Philippines confirms flight Z2 272 from Manila skidded off the Kalibo International Airport runway at 5:43PM upon landing. All 153 passengers and crew were able to disembark safely, no injuries reported.’

‘All passengers are now at a hotel assisted by AirAsia staff,’ they added.

The incident comes just hours after six bodies were recovered from the Java Sea following the disappearance of AirAsia flight 8501 on Sunday. 162 people were on board the flight when it disappeared from radars 42 minutes into its flight from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore.

Poor weather has been suggested a likely factor in that crash after it emerged the pilot requested to deviate from its flight plan and climb above bad weather.

By the time permission to do so was granted, the plane had already vanished from radars.

Officials have confirmed that bodies and debris found in Java Sea off Indonesia are from AirAsia flight 8501, and a naval spokesman said the rescuers remain ‘very busy’ retrieving the victims.

Scores of bodies were discovered alongside luggage, a plane door and an emergency slide floating in the water 100 miles off the coast of Borneo Island earlier today after three days of searching.

The recovery of six bodies came as devastated relatives of AirAsia crash victims collapsed in grief and were taken to hospital after an Indonesian television station showed disturbing uncensored footage of the corpses floating in the sea.

Images shown on a news channel showed at least one body floating in the water, causing the victims’ relatives – who were watching live reports at crisis-centre at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya – to burst into tears, with some fainting and requiring hospital treatment.

Source: John Hall for MailOnline

Analysis: ASEAN Open Skies On Track

PETALING JAYA: Three aviation tragedies involving carriers from Asean within a space of nine months will not stop the implementation of the Asean open skies policy that will kick off from Jan 1.

The policy, however, is expected to pay more attention to having higher standards of safety and other regulatory approvals to operate flights, among others, when it is fully implemented by the end of 2015.

Although the road to full open skies is not completely clear of obstacles, some Asean airlines particularly low-cost carriers (LCCs) are already positioning themselves for the Asean open skies.

Analysts said the higher safety standards were not entirely due to the two catastrophes involving aircraft from Malaysia and Indonesia. Asean members, they said, had always worked towards their respective safety security compliance for the industry.

“It is not something they hastily prepared in the wake of the airline tragedies. Safety has always been paramount in the aviation industry. No airlines will compromise on safety issue. It (safety) will always be their top priority,” an aviation analyst said.

Industry players said the Asean open skies not only provide member countries with air service liberalisation, but also include aviation safety, aviation security, air traffic management, civil aviation technology, aviation environment protection and air transport regulatory framework.

This year has been the worst for the aviation sector in the region, where for the past few years airlines were hit by high operating costs largely due to fuel prices. But since June this year, the fuel cost has come down but a spate of airline tragedies has cast a shadow over the airline companies.

On March 8, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) MH370 went missing after leaving Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing, while in July, another MAS jet was shot down when flying over a rebel-controlled area in Ukraine.

The latest air tragedy happened on Sunday when AirAsia Indonesia flight QZ8501 went missing after leaving Surabaya for Singapore.

Analysts and industry officials said airlines had always not compromised on safety issues and that the MH370 tragedy was a rarity.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) CEO Tony Tyler had said right from the beginning there was an understanding among governments and industry players that “safety was not a competitive issue”. He said there has always been great cooperation among all the industry’s stakeholders in efforts to make flying ever safer.

Tyler said IATA was working with its partners towards some recommendations on how to better track aircraft. There is some promising technology that will become available in the near future.

Meanwhile, industry players and analysts are excited with the impending policy which is expected to take place in 2015 as it will be a boon to the Asean carriers.

Analysts said the open skies policy would likely see greater growth and development as airlines in the region were spurred to greater competition.

“With the Asean open skies policy being implemented next year, there would be higher air travel demand in the region, as well as an increase in passenger traffic and movement of goods. This will add a new dimension of growth for the country,” a bank-backed analyst said, adding that Malaysia was one of the major beneficiaries of the policy.

The Asean open skies policy, to be introduced next year as part of the Asean Economic Community, is expected to transform the aviation industry by allowing for more liberalisation between the regional aviation markets, thus encouraging greater connectivity, higher traffic growth and service quality, while lowering ticket prices.

In essence, all of the 10 Asean member countries will open up their international airports to each other, with no regulatory limit in terms of frequency or capacity.

AirAsia group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes told StarBiz in an interview last week (before the QZ8501 incident) that the group was very excited on Asean as a whole and it had been very progressive in opening up its skies. He believed the policy would further boost Asean tourism market.

“We believe in economic union of Asean. AirAsia has been moving Asean people around successfully. The open skies policy will enable secondary cities to reopen, improved connectivity for SME and tourism,” he told StarBiz.

He said the policy would be the first step in terms of Asean common ownership. He also hoped that it would be truly open skies.

“We need open skies — true open skies — and common ownership. As an Asean company, why can’t I own 100% of another airline in Asean? And why can’t another airline own 100% of a Malaysian carrier?” Tony said.

AirAsia has managed to build an Asean tourism market way before the implementation of the policy. The carrier has moved ahead to secure the Indonesian market, accounting for a significant portion of the region’s total population.

Maybank Investment Bank analyst Mohshin Aziz said there was much to cheer upon the launch of the Asean open skies in 2015.

He said upon closer scrutiny, many of the advertised benefits were just a mirage. For example, open skies exist for capital cities, but there is a cap on slots so it amounts to no net benefit.

“Furthermore, the granting of fifth-freedom rights remains arbitrary and dependent on the host country. We wish the tentacles of bureaucracy could be crimped and that things move in a more cohesive manner, much like in the European Union (EU).

A fifth freedom enables an airline to fly to two countries with a flight that originates or ends in its home country. For instance an aircraft can take off from Kuala Lumpur, pick passengers in Bangkok before stopping in Hanoi.

“However, to be fair, the EU open skies took 52 years to complete, whereas Asean open skies was mooted 18 years ago. Hopefully, there will be more deregulations and the region will be more single market-centric in the near future,” he said.

Some players argued that true liberalisation would ensure seventh freedom rights whereby airliners get the right to transport passengers between two foreign countries without offering flights to one’s home country. For instance an airline from Kuala Lumpur can operate between Jakarta and Singapore without having to return to the home base.

It has been reported that the Asean open skies has been ratified by all Asean countries except for the Philippines. Indonesia had ratified the 2009 Multilateral Agreement on Air Services (MAAS) that would give Asean airlines unlimited third, fourth and fifth freedom rights to operate between capital cities.

So, who will benefits and who will rule Asean skies?

In a report, UOB Kay Hian said AirAsia and airport operators such as Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) would benefit from Indonesia’s ratification of the 2009 Asean open skies.

The research house noted that intra-Asean LCC penetration which was already at 59% would rise further if MAAS was fully ratified.

“The two dominant LCCs in Asean – Lion Air and AirAsia – will be the main beneficiaries. AirAsia will benefit via higher intra-Asean travel, utilisation of its extensive order book, and higher lease income.

“Thai AirAsia, which is Thailand’s largest LCC, will also benefit from greater intra-Asean travel and can serve as an LCC hub to China,” the research house said.

It said airport operators MAHB and Airports of Thailand would also be beneficiaries in the long term.

“Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport is operating at 90% capacity and a new terminal will only be completed in 2017. However, LCC airport Don Maung will see greater pax throughput.

“The primary beneficiary, however, will be KLIA2 as nine LCCs are serving KLIA2, five of which are from the AirAsia group. MAHB will be able to benefit from higher aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue,” it said.

Source: Leong Hung Yee, The Star Online

Warning Issued vs Fake Airline Promo

MANILA, Philippines – Budget airline Cebu Pacific yesterday warned of a fake online promo promising 1,000 free flights for two to any destination next year.

“Please beware of this Facebook page who claim to be Cebu Pacific Air,” the airline company said in a post in its official Facebook account.

“We will coordinate with authorities to identify parties behind this page, so we can take necessary legal action. We have also already reported this page to Facebook, and will continue reminding everyone to be vigilant,” it added.

The airline company had to issue a statement after thousands reportedly fell for the fake promo, posted in a supposed Facebook page of Cebu Pacific on Friday.

The page, which retained the name CEB Pacific, has since removed the logo of the airline company as its profile and cover photos.

The description also states the page’s non-affiliation with Cebu Pacific.

The supposed promo promised 1,000 lucky netizens with free flights for two to any destination as part of the airline’s apology over the problematic situation at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA-3) on Dec. 24 and 25.

The “promo,” which was posted twice in the hoax page, included photos of the huge crowd at the Cebu Pacific check-in counters during the holidays.

To join, netizens were asked to “like” and “share” the photos, as well as put their desired destination in the comments section.

More than 50,000 Facebook users shared the first post, while another 18,000 shared the second post. The two posts had a combined 113,000 likes and 96,000 comments as of yesterday afternoon.

While some netizens posted their desired destinations in the supposed online promo, a lot of users also posted their grievances over the problematic situation at the airport several days ago.

According to reports, thousands of Cebu Pacific passengers missed their flights due to flight cancellations and lack of check-in counter personnel on Dec. 24 and 25.

A GMA News report quoted a representative of the airline as saying that the affected passengers will be rebooked or will receive refunds.

Juan Lorenzo Tañada, Cebu Pacific vice president for corporate affairs, said in the report that a lot of their regular agents at check-in counters were late or absent as they were stretched the past days.

In its website, Cebu Pacific said passengers with flights originating or connecting from Manila between Dec. 23 and Jan. 5, 2015 who have been unable to check-in for their flights or have been tagged as no-shows may avail of rebooking their flights up to 30 days from original departure date.

Passengers may also get a full travel refund or a full refund, all without additional charges.

The affected passengers should specify their preferred option by Jan. 12, 2015, by calling +(632)7020888 or visiting Cebu Pacific’s ticket offices.

Thousands of passengers were affected by long queues, flight delays and even flight cancellations that started during the Christmas rush last Dec. 23, particularly at the NAIA-3 that is being used as a hub by Cebu Pacific.

Some passengers were forced to sleep and even celebrated their Christmas Eve in the international gateway.

Respect their rights

Malacanang called on airlines to respect passengers’ rights amid reports of flight delays and overbooked flights.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) had received 14 complaints with regard to domestic flights.

Valte disclosed complaints started coming on Dec. 23 and that CAB along with the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) would have a meeting tomorrow to discuss the issues.

“They are investigating what happened. Because some of the complaints say that the counters were undermanned and (passengers) were not able to check in because of long queues. There are many allegations to that effect and the DOTC as well as CAB are looking into them,” Valte said.

While overbooking was allowed, Valte said “it’s not favored, especially during peak season.”

She said this matter would also be discussed as she urged the public to study the Air Passenger Bill of Rights so they would know what to do in case their flights were overbooked, among other concerns.

Valte said people must be aware of their rights or entitlements so they could deal with various situations accordingly.

According to Valte, compensation must be enough and passengers must be informed beforehand that their flights would be cancelled or rebooked or the fares would be reimbursed.

“This means that rebooking or reimbursement must be the option of the passenger,” she said.

The DOTC and the Department of Trade and industry (DTI) issued Joint Administrative Order No. 01 Series of 2012 providing a bill of rights for air passengers and carrier obligations.

For one, Section 11 Chapter IV of the Air Passenger Bill of Rights gives passengers right to compensation and amenities in case of cancellation of flights.

The bill states that passengers affected by flight cancellations are entitled to sufficient refreshments or meals, hotel accommodations, transportation from airport to hotel, free phone calls, texts or e-mails, among others.

Affected passengers could also reimburse the value of the fare, including taxes or surcharges, in case he or she decides not to use the ticket or could be endorsed to another airline without paying any fare difference.

They could also rebook the ticket without additional charge to the next flight available or within 30 days.

The DOTC said it was looking into the possible liability of Cebu Pacific for the flight cancellations and alleged overbooking that inconvenienced hundreds of passengers.

DOTC spokesman Michael Arthur Sagcal said Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya would meet with the officials of CAB, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to investigate these issues and determine the liability of Cebu Pacific for any violations.

“The CAB, MIAA, and CAAP will convene on Monday to investigate these issues and determine if Cebu Pacific is liable for any violations and whether tighter regulations are necessary,” Sagcal said.

Sagcal pointed out that the DOTC directed chief aviation authorities and airlines last Thursday to open more counters and deploy more personnel to assist passengers.

Source: Janvic Mateo, Aurea Calica, Lawrence Agcaoili, Rudy Santos (The Philippine Star)

NAIA Terminal 1 Fully Rehabilitated And Operational By May 2015 – Abaya

MANILA – The ongoing rehabilitation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 will be finalized before May 2015, or a few months’ later than its projected completion of January 2015, but the delay is acceptable, said Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary Emilio Abaya.

Abaya revealed this after conducting an ocular inspection on the progress of the billion-peso rehabilitation project Tuesday, and expressed satisfaction with the work thus far. He also issued directives to improve services at the airport right away, but stressed that a slight delay in completion would be fine with the agency given that the terminal is quite old and certain unforeseen problems or defects could arise in the course of the rehabilitation.

Abaya arrived at the Terminal 1 around 11 a.m. Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) Senior Assistant General Manager Vicente Guerzon, Terminal 1 manager Dante Basanta and DMCI senior project manager Alfredo Juan de Villa updated him on ongoing renovations.

Abaya said that he is satisfied enough with the development of NAIA 1: the “basic component of a good airport is there; it is much better and I think we can improve the interior by working with interior designers but structurally the good airport is there.”

He noted that Terminal 1 is structurally equipped with buckling resistance braces, a metal diagonally erected on building posts that can withstand natural disasters such as earthquakes. Most contractors use these in new buildings.

During the inspection, Abaya directed Terminal 1 manager Dante Basanta to add more lights in every toilet and immediately repair the escalator at the pre-departure area which outbound passengers use in going to the departure lounge with their hand- carry luggage.

He also inspected the newly built airline counters with new conveyor belts and digital check-in computers.

The NAIA Terminal 1 repairs began on January 20, 2014, and should be completed in January next year; however, Abaya admitted that some technical problems had generated delays and said that a 45-days delay in a multimillion project like this is tolerable, considering that one never knows what specific defects are inside a 30-year old structure like this.

“Unlike with a new building being erected, everything is in the plan. But in an improvement project, certain things may surface that were not in the plan,” Abaya added.

“It is such a big facility, you can never pin down the final date of completion especially when you are rehabilitating,” Abaya said.

When asked about his reaction to the latest online survey listing NAIA terminal 1 as the fourth worst airport, he quickly reacted that the survey from the very start was inaccurate.

He pointed out that NAIA terminal 1 can only accommodate 13 million passengers annually, but the online survey stated that the old terminal was accommodating 32 million passengers a year.

But he stressed that what is really unacceptable is the survey’s description of the airport personel as rude and undisciplined.

“For the first time you are seeing somebody describing Filipinos as being rude, disrespectful and discourteous. Would you accept that we are rude as a people? Anyone, even media will not accept Filipinos being branded as discourteous,” Abaya asked.

Tacloban airport updates

Asked on the progress of the Tacloban airport rehabilitation, Abaya said the 2.1-kilometer runway rehabilitation will be fully operational by either December 21 or 22 this year just in time for the arrival of Pope Francis on January 17,2015.

He said that by then, the CAAP- operated Tacloban airport will be operational for bigger-single-aisles aircraft like Airbus A320 or Boeing B737 jets, allowing more travelers to be accommodated on flights.

Currently, only turbo propeller-driven aircraft are allowed to operate due to the ongoing repair of the runway; with Cebu Pacific using ATR-type aircraft that can only accommodate a maximum of 72 passengers, and PALExpress with their Q3 aircraft, which can only accommodate a maximum of 54 passengers.


AirAsia Seeks More Asean Building Work

2014429094328If a company could ever symbolise the development of the Asean bloc as it prepares for economic integration in 2015, AirAsia might stake a large claim.

Tony Fernandes’ low-cost Malaysia-based airline not only connects much of the region but has also been instrumental in lobbying governments for better coordination between states.

Perhaps more importantly, AirAsia, Asean’s biggest low-cost carrier, is on the frontline in a battle that has stymied the region for years: namely the parlous state of infrastructure.

“The problem is infrastructure,” Raman Narayanan, AirAsia group head, Asean affairs and government relations, told FinanceAsia. “Every airport in Asean is bursting at the seams. It is becoming a very big issue.”

Southeast Asia’s international air travel market grew by 20% from about 4.7 million weekly seats in April 2012 to 5.6 million weekly seats in October 2013, according to CAPA and Innovata data.

Airports under development in Asean are failing to keep pace with this growing number of air travellers. Indonesia and the Philippines in particular trail neighbouring countries in terms of the pace of development.

According to airline magazine New Airport Insider, Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta, the main airport in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy by GDP, handled 60.1 million passengers in 2013. The airport is designed to handle 22 million passengers.

Plans are under way to boost the capacity to 62 million but this won’t be complete until 2017 at the earliest, according to the magazine. And it’s a similar story at airports across the country and region.

The Philippines’ four major airports, meanwhile, could barely cope with 7.7 million tourists in 2014 but that number is expected to surpass 10 million by 2016. Plans have been lodged with the government for a new airport in Manila to help ease the strain but these are at a very early stage.

Upgrading existing national airports is expensive and takes years to complete. AirAsia argues it is therefore not the best solution for the Asean bloc.

“In almost all of Asean — and elsewhere too for that matter — airports are monopolies, either public monopolies or private ones,” Narayanan said. “We have recommended that governments allow competition among airports, much like liberalisation has boosted competition among airlines and lowered fares for consumers.”

AirAsia is lobbying governments to follow Malaysia and Thailand, which have airports that handle legacy carriers and also airports that cater solely to low-cost carriers.

In addition to being cheaper to build, low-cost carrier airports’ operating costs are less than legacy counterparts, according to AirAsia. This trickles down to the airlines and keeps fees, taxes and charges to the airlines down.

“We are constantly emphasising the need for low-cost airports to all governments in the region,” Narayanan said. “Clearly, Thailand and Malaysia have heeded our requests. Others are still mulling it over.”

“Both [prestige and low-cost airports] have very different business models. If you want to build a national airport for legacy purposes, that’s fine, go ahead. But first [governments] should focus on building low-cost carrier terminals for low-cost carriers that can support a lot of planes. The money comes in volume [of planes], not from more people flying,” he added.

The issue is important because some 60% of Southeast Asia air travel is on low-cost carriers, according to CAPA, the airline research group, a number that’s expected to grow.

“Low-cost airlines just need a simple airport. We don’t need marble floors, we don’t need bridges. We don’t need a Taj Mahal,” Narayanan said.

If governments build more low-cost carrier airports that boost competition among airport operators, this will lower costs for airlines and consumers, he argued.

This is important considering the traditionally punishing effects of fuel prices, which get passed on to passengers and which have – up to recently at least – been high.

It is also timely as the Asean bloc develops, and its population becomes more wealthy and has more disposable income to play with.

“The very nature of our business — making air travel affordable and accessible by serving the underserved — helps integrate the region,”  Narayanan said.

Formed nearly a half century ago, Asean is now an economic powerhouse, attracting investment from around the world, and would be the world’s seventh largest economy as a combined entity.

Asean has experienced average annual growth rates of 5.1% between 2000 and 2013, behind only China and India. More than 600 million people live in Asean; a population that is becoming increasingly wealthy.

AirAsia growth

AirAsia itself is testament to this growth.

The airline started in 2002 with one route – between Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi – two planes and a staff of 250. Now Asean’s largest low-cost carrier has more than 88 destinations and carries more than 220 million people annually. More than half of its destinations are in Southeast Asia.

AirAsia began with the premise that the no-frills, hassle-free, low-fare business model was the way forward. The business model proved prescient. Now over 50% of intra-Asean air travel is on low-cost carriers, a number that is forecast to increase.

“I went out there and built an Asean airline by putting airlines in four countries. I found ways of doing it. I didn’t wait for the Asean community,” AirAsia’s founder Tony Fernandes told consultants McKinsey recently.

Ultimately, though, Asean governments have to be negotiated with if growth is to be maintained, and Narayanan contends the airline is constantly negotiating, especially as the industry is heavily regulated.

“We need the nod from governments for much of what we do,” he said.

At the moment, flights are restricted by government-to-government deals. It is not possible for an airline to fly to a country without that government’s permission. All of this will go out the window under the impending Open Skies initiative. “Anybody can fly to any country,” he said. “The access to the routes will be fantastic.”

AirAsia is heavily involved in pushing Open Skies, which promises to enhance air connectivity among Asean, bring down trade barriers, improve labour and good flow and boost tourism. It formally comes into effect in 2015 but it’s not that simple.

“All indications are that it not will be fully implemented in 2015. It will happen in stages,” noted Narayanan. “It took Europe 30 years, so it’s going to take a while [in Asean].”

AirAsia plans to ramp up the frequency of existing routes and add new destinations to its already extensive network to connect Asean to North Asia and India in the next few years.

Ultimately though, increasing the routes is not the problem that airlines, governments and airport operators face. Once Asean’s economic integration is up and running, politics should be less of an excuse for any lack of further development.

All that will remain is the quality and quantity of the bricks and mortar.

Source: Suzy Waite, FinanceAsia

Philippine Regulator Grants 3rd Daily Flights to Emirates Until 26 January 2015

MANILA – Regulators approved Emirates Airlines’ request for an extension of its third daily flight between Manila and Dubai.

Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) executive director Carmelo Arcilla said the agency granted Emirates 30 more days or until January 26 to offer a third daily flight.

Arcilla said the board approved the carrier’s request because of the huge demand from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) during the holiday season.

“The board’s action is premised on the need to assure that passengers, especially the big volume of OFWs traveling to and from the Philippine during the holiday season, would not be inconvenienced or dislocated,” he said.

Representatives of Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific were unavailable for comment as this went online. Both local carriers had bucked Emirates’ bid for a third extension, complaining that the first two extensions were illegal.

“We are grateful to the authorities in the Philippines for granting an extension on our third daily flight from Manila to Dubai up to 26 January. It is a positive decision that will provide passengers with uninterrupted travel plans, offer increased options for travel during the busy festive season, and one which will be welcomed by the thousands of Filipino travelers and businesses who prefer to use our services to get to Dubai and beyond,” Barry Brown, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president for Commercial Operations East, said.

“At Emirates, we remain committed to the Philippines and will continue to work closely with the Civil Aeronautics Board to ensure a satisfactory outcome for all stakeholders. We hope that the interests of consumers and the business community will continue to prevail,” Brown added.

The CAB had issued a cease and desist order, barring Emirates from selling tickets for a third daily flight for schedules beyond December 26, after PAL and Cebu Pacific complained that the third daily flight wasn’t covered by a regulatory permit.

To recall, CAB only extended Emirates’ extra flights twice, or from October 27 to November 26, and from November 27 to December 26.

The Philippine-United Arab Emirates Confidential Memorandum of Understanding (CMOU) provides for a maximum of 14 weekly frequencies for the Middle Eastern country’s flag carrier.

Government data show that there are over 700,000 Filipinos working in United Arab Emirates.


Etihad named CAPA Airline of the Year

MANILA, Philippines – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has been named CAPA Airline of the Year at the CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence 2014 in Antwerp, Belgium.

Etihad operates two flights daily between Abu Dhabi and Manila.

The CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence, the world’s pre-eminent aviation strategy awards, are for strategic leadership in the aviation industry.

The Airline of the Year award is given to the carrier which has had the greatest impact on the development of the global airline industry, as a strategic leader and by setting a benchmark for others to follow.

Peter Harbison, CAPA executive chairman, presented the award to Etihad Airways, citing the airline for its “remarkable strategic partnership model.”

“Recognising that organic growth was not likely to generate the rapid global expansion it needed, Etihad Airways has relied on an extensive network of codeshares and most notably, established its own ‘equity alliance’, cemented by minority holdings in airlines around the world… In a new world of aviation partnerships, Etihad Airways is at the strategic vanguard of equity relationships, as a growing number of airlines – notably in Asia – line up to emulate the success of this truly original model,” Harbison said.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, said receiving Airline of the Year is not just a great honor but also “a powerful endorsement of the Etihad Airways business model.”

“The four-pillars of our strategy – organic expansion, codeshare partnerships, minority investments in other airlines and deep commercial agreements – are more than a new rule book for global aviation they are the keys to a long and sustainable future for the airline and its partners,” he said.