Despite an existing air services agreement between PH and Kuwait which allow 5th freedom rights, the State of Kuwait disallowed the carriage of passengers and cargo between Dubai and Kuwait, the flag carrier complained.
Fifth Freedom is the freedom to pick up passengers and cargo from a foreign country and carry them to a second country, which is the final destination.
Last January 17, 2016, PAL launched a four times weekly service (M-W-F-S) between MNL and Kuwait (via Dubai) to serve the travel needs of Filipinos in that State using a 414-seater Airbus A330.
But Kuwait’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) only allowed PAL to carry passengers and cargo traveling solely between the Philippines and either Kuwait or Dubai.
In short, the Kuwaiti government barred PAL from exercising its right as a Philippine-designated carrier to avail of fifth freedom traffic rights.
The Philippines-Kuwait Bilateral Air Services Agreement of 1977, as amended in April 1995 and February 2009, clearly granted PAL with such a right.
Hence, in an official communiqué addressed to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista urged the state agency to intervene on the issue.
“We request for DFA assistance in taking the appropriate measures to help PAL secure Kuwaiti authorization for our Dubai-Kuwait fifth freedom rights, including diplomatic protests and special representations with the Government of the State of Kuwait,” he stressed.
“The Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s disapproval undermines the principle of reciprocity in availing the grant of aviation rights and the commitment to ensure a level-playing field among parties in the ASA (Air Services Agreement),” the PAL President reiterated.
“It’s unfortunate that the Government of the State of Kuwait, through its Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has disallowed PAL from carrying ‘fifth freedom’ passenger and cargo traffic between Dubai and Kuwait.”
“Ironically, Kuwait Airways had been freely availing of 5th freedom traffic rights between Bangkok and Manila for close to 20 years.”
To address the imbalance, the Philippines’ Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) suspended Kuwait Airways’ Bangkok-Manila fifth freedom privileges effective March 27, 2016.
Nevertheless, the CAB permitted Kuwait Airways to increase its flights to Manila from six to eight weekly, a move which PAL vehemently opposed.
“We intend to exhaust all available avenues to resolve this issue,” according to PAL SVP Legal and General Counsel Atty. Siegfred Mison.
“We urge the CAB to reconsider any grant of additional rights to Kuwait Airlines, until and unless PAL is granted its basic air rights as allowed under existing agreements.”