Finally we have good news from the FAA!

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila - The Philippine Star

Finally after six full years of the Philippines literally in “aviation darkness,” we finally got off the dark tunnel and are back in the light when the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally and formally announced that, “The Republic of the Philippines complies with international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and has been granted a Category 1 rating.” Call it music to our ears that after being in Category 2 for over six full years, we have been restored by the FAA and ICAO. This is great news for us!

It was on January 2008 when the Philippines was downgraded by the FAA/ICAO for failing our safety standards, wherein we are supposed to at least follow the minimum standards set by Aviation Regulators. Call it a coincidence that the European Union (EU) also cleared Cebu Pacific Air (CPA) to fly to Europe. As people would say, good news comes in pairs!

With CPA as the nation’s number one budget airline, it opens up great opportunities for Filipinos to fly direct to Europe. And with the country back to Category 1, now Philippine Air Lines (PAL) can fly more routes direct to the USA. I just hope that PAL would finally honor its promise that we would finally see a direct Cebu to the US flight as promised by PAL long ago.

But while we applaud the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) for our return back to Category 1… now is a good time to warn CAAP officials that we should never lose this Category 1 ever again. What I would like to see from CAAP are their plans and programs to keep the Philippines always on Category 1. Perhaps they should issue “Red Flags” so we in the media could help warn Congress that we could lose again our Category 1 if funds to keep this nation on this category would be denied CAAP.

Meanwhile, whatever happened to the so-called “Bill of Passenger’s Rights?” Last Tuesday, April 8, we took PAL Flt PR 2861 which was supposed to depart at 3:30 p.m., we got into the NAIA Centennial Terminal at 1:30 p.m. or at least two hours before flight time…only to be told that our flight was moved to 5 p.m. But this flight was further delayed and finally took off at 6:15 p.m. and arrived in Mactan at 7:30 p.m.

This is why I hate to go to Manila, traffic is bad on the streets and there is even a worse congestion at the NAIA runway. And yes, airlines don’t care we we’re stuck in the airport for 6 full hours! At the very least, PAL should have offered some kind of free snacks for many irate passengers who suffer quietly. This is something that our carriers ought to factor in when flights are delayed.

I was watching ANC News report of Cebu Pacific’s Lance Gokongwei together with PAL Chairman Ramon Ang with ear-to-ear smiles in announcing the good news of Cebu Pac’s entry to the European market and PAL’s having more routes to the USA. The two apparently told the press that they were good friends and idolized each other. This only brought me to think that what is happening in Philippine Aviation is just another “Duo-poly”.

CAAP should come up with guidelines outlining the responsibility of airlines when flights get delayed after two hours. So before Cebu Pac and PAL fly their new international routes, they should first come up with plans and solutions that ease passenger comfort when their flights get delayed. Let me warn them that international passengers would be less tolerant than we Filipinos about our own national carriers.

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I’ve avoided writing about the alleged extortion attempt of some $30 million from the Czech firm Inekon Group despite the insistence by Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar who was willing to face an investigation for his accusations against a high-ranking official of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) simply because I felt that this was nothing but pure “smoke” being spread by critics of President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino, III. Apparently, this issue is no longer just simple rumors, as the Czech Ambassador has not wavered on his stand.

I’m glad that Malacañang has welcomed the move to dig deeper into this potentially explosive scandal, which strikes into the heart of the Aquino family, more so that the Office of the Ombudsman has called upon the Czech Ambassador to shed light on this controversy. Meanwhile, something is really very wrong with the way the Manila Rail Transit (MRT) General Manager Al Vitangcol III is running this mass transit system that is vital to the economy of Metro Manila and the entire country as well.

I have never in my life seen such long queues of people waiting to ride the MRT. With the expose’ by the Czech Ambassador looming… and the obvious mismanagement happening at the MRT under the watch of Vitangcol, it is high time for President Aquino to let this fellow go on leave or resign… or the best option is for P-Noy to fire him immediately.

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