Hundreds of ZestAir passengers stranded at NAIA

Lawrence Agcaoili, Rudy Santos, Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines -Hundreds of passengers of budget carrier Zest Airways have been stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 4 after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) grounded the airline’s operations for various aviation safety breaches last Friday.

ZestAir cancelled yesterday 30 domestic and two international flights bound for Kuala Lumpur and Pudong in Shanghai, China.

The passengers queued outside Terminal 4 not knowing that ZestAir’s operations had been suspended.

More than 500 passengers were stranded Friday night after CAAP issued the suspension order on ZestAir.

According to the stranded passengers, ZestAir staff told them to wait at the airport as they were rebooked on other available domestic flights. 

Safety issues addressed

Meanwhile, ZestAir yesterday expressed confidence that the issues raised by aviation authorities would be resolved within the week, paving the way for the possible lifting of the suspension order on the airline.

ZestAir chief information officer Joy Canebo said in a telephone interview that the airline has addressed all the concerns raised by the CAAP since it was placed under heightened surveillance on July 30.

The airline has appealed the suspension of the airline’s operations.

“We are surprised the suspension was issued without giving us an opportunity to properly respond to the issues raised. The management of ZestAir has been in full cooperation with CAAP in ensuring that the maintenance programs and policies of ZestAir are in place,” Canebo said.

Last Friday, CAAP acting head John Andrews grounded the fleet of ZestAir for various violations of the Philippine Civil Aviation Regulations (PCAR).

The airline’s air operator certificate was suspended and would only be reinstated once the safety concerns are resolved.

The STAR earlier erroneously reported that ZestAir and AirAsia were suspended by the CAAP. It was only ZestAir that was grounded.

ZestAir is jointly owned by businessman  Alfredo Yao and the Philippine unit of low cost carrier giant AirAsia Berhad of Malaysia.

ZestAir’s non-conformance to PCAR and deficiencies affecting its flight operations included the absence of a qualified account manager, failure to check aircraft logs, flight manifests, weather, among others.

Canebo said that none of the airline’s 24 pilots are exceeding the flight time limit of 100 hours a month per pilot amid the findings of CAAP inspectors that the airline has been violating the flight time limit for pilots since January last year.

She added that Yao, president and chief executive officer of ZestAir since 2008, is acting as the airline’s account manager.

On the issue of the missing fuel cap, Canebo said the item is not in the minimum equipment list required under aviation regulations.

“All findings in CAAP’s letter have been appropriately addressed and we believe that they do not merit suspension of our operations,” she added.

The airline reiterated that its fleet of 10 Airbus A320 and one A319 are safe and airworthy.

In its effort to help stranded passengers, Tiger Air said it will operate additional flights today and tomorrow from Manila to Cebu and back.

Tiger Air departs Manila at 6:15 p.m. and arrives in Cebu at 7:30 p.m. Flights from Cebu to Manila will be at 8:45 p.m. and arrive in Manila at 10 p.m.

To book and purchase tickets visit www.tigerair.com. Tiger airport ticketing offices are also open at NAIA Terminal 4 and Mactan Cebu International Airport.

Meanwhile, Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said yesterday that all scheduled flights of ZestAir should be honored despite the issuance of suspension order on the airline.

“We have information that ZestAir has existing agreements with other airline companies wherein the said endorsee airlines can step in and undertake terminated flights at no additional costs for the passengers,” Ridon, who is a member of the House committee on transportation, said.











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