UAE Eyes New Air Talks With Philippines

The Philippine aviation regulator’s decision to penalize Emirates for illegally selling seats in the key Manila to Dubai route may be a short-lived victory for domestic carriers Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific as new air talks with the United Arab Emirates are being eyed.

Both PAL and Cebu Pacific were able to get the Civil Aeronautics Board to order Emirates, one of the world’s biggest air carriers, to stop selling one of three daily Manila to Dubai flights beyond the Dec. 26 deadline given by the government, CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said late Thursday.

Arcilla said those illegally sold tickets could be refunded by Emirates or the carrier can rebook passengers on its two remaining daily Manila-Dubai flights after Dec. 26 or endorse these to other carriers.

The CAB also fined Emirates P1.8 million for violating the rules because it was selling those seats until October next year, Arcilla said.

The move was welcomed by both PAL and Cebu Pacific, which said in a joint statement Friday that the CAB did the right thing in protecting Philippine laws.

But they raised new worries given a potential plan by the United Arab Emirates to hold a fresh round of air talks with their Philippine counterparts as early as January 2015.

The air talks, last held between both jurisdictions in 2012, would likely result in increased seats between both the UAE and the Philippines, in particular Manila’s busy Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

More seats would only restore Emirates third daily flight, which domestic carriers originally argued the Gulf carrier should stop using because a PAL-Emirates codeshare deal expired a few months ago.

Emirates has so far been operating the third daily flight because of two 30-day extensions given by the government, the latest of which ends Dec. 26.

“We reiterate our appeal against holding a new round of bilateral air negotiations with the [UAE] in the near future,” PAL and Cebu Pacific said in their statement Friday.

“Air talks with the UAE are not a priority at this time, given the significant increase in capacity over the past year and it may only legitimize Emirates’ third daily frequency, which renders useless the very CAB decision penalizing Emirates precisely for not respecting Philippine laws,” they added.

They also come amid plans by PAL and Cebu Pacific, which also serve the Manila to Dubai route, to expand in the Middle East, a crucial market for Filipinos working overseas.

Arcilla said in a text message that the Philippine Air Panel discussed the proposal of the UAE for another round of air negotiations last Dec. 11 but “it did not finish the deliberation.” He said they would meet again on Dec. 19.

Source: Miguel R. Camus, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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