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Cebu Air awaits OK on Europe flights

MANILA, Philippines - The European Union is currently evaluating the application of Gokongwei-owned Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific) to enter European airspace after the body partially lifted a ban and allowed flag carrier Philippine Airlines Inc. (PAL) to fly to London last year.

Lawyer Jorenz Tanada, vice president for corporate affairs of Cebu Pacific, told The STAR that the budget airline has been advised by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to attend the Air Safety Committee (ASC) meeting of the EU this week.

“We were advised by the CAAP that the EU has invited Cebu Pacific to attend the Air Safety Committee meeting on March 26,” Tanada said.

(Ret.) Capt. John Andrews, deputy director general of CAAP, confirmed that the application of Cebu Pacific to fly to Europe is now being evaluated by the commission.

“It will be done this week,” he confirmed.

In March of 2010, the 27-member European Commission imposed a ban on Philippine carriers from entering the European airspace after CAAP failed to reform the country’s civil aviation system as mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

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However, the Philippines got a positive impression at the EU’s Air Safety Committee (ASC) in Belgium in June especially after ICAO lifted the remaining significant security concerns regarding the Philippines after the CAAP passed the audit conducted in February last year.

This paved the way for the partial lifting of the ban in July last year allowing PAL to mount direct flights to London last November.

In 2008, the safety rating of the Philippines was downgraded by the US FAA upon the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to Category 2 from Category 1 after CAAP failed to comply with safety standards for the oversight of air carrier operations.

Cebu Pacific informed the Directorate General for Mobility and Transport (DGMOVE) of the EU that the low cost carrier has already complied with all the outstanding aviation safety concerns just like PAL.

Tanada pointed out that Cebu Pacific and representatives from CAAP met in Brussels in January.

“There was a technical review meeting between representatives from CAAP, Cebu Pacific, and the EU DGMOVE last January 28 in Brussels,” he revealed.

It would be recalled that no less than Cebu Pacific president and chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei earlier announced that the budget airline would seek the green light from the EU to fly to European airspace in November last year.

Gokongwei assured that Cebu Pacific operates a safe airline despite the incident involving two of its aircraft at the Davao International Airport and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last June.

Since the incidents, Gokongwei said that the airline has complied with the recommendations of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) particularly on the training of its pilots as well as the review of its flight operating system by experts from Airbus.

However, the plan was deferred after Super Typhoon Yolanda battered several provinces in the Visayas region last Nov. 8.

Cebu Pacific is in the middle of a $4 billion re-fleeting program involving the acquisition of 49 Airbus aircraft as it gears up for long-haul flights to the United States and Europe.

Cebu Pacific has a fleet of 50 aircraft composed of 10 A319, 29 Airbus A320, three Airbus A330, and eight ATR-72 500 aircraft. It expects the delivery of 13 A320, 30 A321neo, and three A330 between 2014 and 2021.

Cebu Pacific is also looking at mounting flights to the US, particularly Guam and Hawaii once the country’s status is upgraded by the US Federal Aviation Administration (US-FAA) back to Category 1.

In 2008, the safety rating of the Philippines was downgraded by the US FAA upon the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to Category 2 from Category 1after CAAP failed to comply with safety standards for the oversight of air carrier operations.

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