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Old July 3rd, 2009, 04:54 PM   #241
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SEAIR re-opens Baguio
03 July 2009

BAGUIO CITY— Leisure Airline and the country's smallest scheduled air carrier will fly again from Manila to Baguio starting September 1 after it suspended its air service almost 2 years ago.

“We will be having three flights, Manila-Baguio-Manila, three times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, using the Dornier 328 aircraft, the same aircraft used for Boracay flights,” says Roel Sibayan, assistant sales manager of Seair. The Dornier 328 plane carries 32 passengers.

Sibayan said the airline is confident and hopeful about its load booking for the route and expects the same traffic turnout with Batanes, the country's most northernmost airport, which handled twice a week service when the route was opened. Seair has now a daily flight to Batanes.

Seair flies to 12 domestic destinations across the country and one international point in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.
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Old July 3rd, 2009, 04:56 PM   #242
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Western Mindanao airports’ upgrade near completion
Pagadian, Zamboanga and Dipolog airports expansion project on time!

by Bong Garcia Jr. Correspondent
03 July 2009

ZAMBOANGA CITY—The upgrading of three airports in Western Mindanao worth P1.28 billion is nearly complete.

Mindanao Economic Development Council chairman Undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana Sr. said these are the airports in the cities of Dipolog, Pagadian and Zamboanga, which would be completed by the end of the year.

Greater connectivity in the region is expected once the airports have been upgraded.

Leyretana said the Dipolog, Pagadian and Zamboanga City airport upgrade are priority projects under the Mindanao Super Region strategy.

Leyretana said the P379.46 million Pagadian City airport-development project would be completed in December.

The project covers the extension of the runway and its apron, rehabilitation of terminal building, construction of administration and powerhouse buildings, perimeter fence and air-navigational facilities.

He said the upgrading of the P478.05-million Dipolog airport involves an asphalt overlay work on the runway and its extension, as wells shore protection, rehabilitation of terminal and fire station buildings and air-navigation facilities.

The P428.5-million Zamboanga City airport development is also targeted for completion at the end of the year and involves the asphalt overlay work on its runway, rehabilitation of existing terminal building and air-navigation facilities.

“By fast-tracking the upgrading of our airports, we would be able to improve our connectivity with the rest of the country,” Leyretana said.

“This would lead to more economic activities and generate employment and business opportunities for Mindanao,” he explained.

He said the rehabilitation and construction of airport facilities would contribute to a safer and more efficient airport operations while ensuring safer and smoother landings.

He said the airport-development projects are being implemented by the Department of Transportation and Communications in close coordination of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines under the Super Region development strategy.

Eight projects have already been completed from the 35 infrastructure projects under the Mindanao Super Region strategy, according to Leyretana.
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Old July 3rd, 2009, 11:06 PM   #243
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrisvenz View Post
SEAIR re-opens Baguio
03 July 2009

BAGUIO CITY— Leisure Airline and the country's smallest scheduled air carrier will fly again from Manila to Baguio starting September 1 after it suspended its air service almost 2 years ago.

“We will be having three flights, Manila-Baguio-Manila, three times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, using the Dornier 328 aircraft, the same aircraft used for Boracay flights,” says Roel Sibayan, assistant sales manager of Seair. The Dornier 328 plane carries 32 passengers.

Sibayan said the airline is confident and hopeful about its load booking for the route and expects the same traffic turnout with Batanes, the country's most northernmost airport, which handled twice a week service when the route was opened. Seair has now a daily flight to Batanes.

Seair flies to 12 domestic destinations across the country and one international point in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.
Wow! Thats amazing, i hope to use the service when i'm back to the Phils. I also hope Zest airways resumes Baguio soon.
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Old July 4th, 2009, 08:02 AM   #244
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$1-B aircraft hangar at DMIA in Clark starts operation July 8

The $1-billion world-class aircraft hangar facility at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark, Pampanga will start operations on July 8.

The airport facility is one of the big-ticket investments generated by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s trips abroad.

Thus declared Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo at a media briefing this afternoon in Malacanang. “One Hangar” is the result of the President’s visit to Singapore to develop the DMIA as the next premier international gateway of the Philippines.

Fajardo, who is also the Presidential Adviser for Central Luzon, said the project, which has already hired 150 employees, is expected to generate over 1,000 jobs when fully operational.

The MRO facility involves the construction of three large hangars that will service long-haul commercial aircraft at its 10-hectare property at the DMIA airport. The first hangar will service narrow-bodied aircraft such as Airbus 320 while the second and third hangars will service wide-bodied aircraft such as Boeing 747s and 777s.

DMIA officials said the hangar project can even accommodate the Airbus A-380, one of the largest aircrafts in the world.

Fajardo also cited the ongoing P30-million road project in Clark under the $1-billion commitment from the Kuwait Gulf and Link to develop a 167-hectare logistics park in the former US military base.

She said this is one of the fruits of the President’s state visit to Kuwait last December during which she showcased the Philippines as a favorable destination for investors.

“And this could create around 35,000 jobs,” Fajardo added.

From the President’s trip to Korea last May, Fajardo said Eco Solutions will also start their project “anytime this month.”

During her visit to Seoul, the President and Korean President Lee Myung-Bak witnessed the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the proposed projects of three South Korean Firms -- Eco Solutions Co. Ltd., EnviroPlasma Ltd., and the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

Eco Solutions and its affiliate, Eco Global Bio-Oils Inc., will invest $175 million on a jatropha plantation in South Cotabato over the next three years.

On the other hand, EnviroPlasma and its local partner, Central Luzon Bioenergy Corp., will invest $300 million on a sugar bioethanol plant in Clark, Pampanga capable of producing 500,000 liters of bioethanol daily.

KOICA, meanwhile, pledged to release a grant worth $12.97 million for the establishment of four modern rice processing facilities in Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan; Pototan, Iloilo; Pilar, Bohol; and Matanay in Davao del Sur.

KOICA also committed $14.9 million, or P700 million, for the expansion of the Molinao Dam in Bohol to pave the way for the irrigation of almost all farmlands in the province.

Yesterday, Winsource Solutions chairman Teodorico Haresco Jr.said the Philippines stands to get a fair share of the demand for information technology (IT) services in Asia-Pacific which is projected to grow from $37.5 billion in 2007 to $53.9 billion in 2011.

Executives of Winsource Solutions Inc., an outsourcing industry subsidiary of Winace Holdings Philippines Inc., made this observation as it credited Winsource’s doubling of its revenues and call seats as early as the end of May this year to job increments from countries visited by President Arroyo.

Haresco said that from their viewpoint, the President is the best marketeer for the country’s BPO industry. “Her focus on more investments in the Philippines and her program of generating employment for Filipinos abroad and at home makes her foreign travel more productive for our economy,” Haresco said.

“Employment for Filipinos in the countries she visited have progressively increased, thanks to her representations made in her state visits in the Middle East, the United States, Europe and Japan,” he added.
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Old July 4th, 2009, 05:00 PM   #245
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RDC wants airport opened to int’l flights
By Francis Allan L. Angelo | The Daily Guardian

THE Regional Development Council (RDC) in Western Visayas requested the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to open the new Iloilo airport to international flights

The RDC made the call in a resolution passed during its regular quarterly meeting recently.

An updated study of the RDC’s Regional Project Monitoring Committee (RPMC) said the new Iloilo airport, if opened to international flights, will generate P280,000 daily from terminal fees.

Presently, the Iloilo airport caters to 16 incoming and outgoing flights daily with an average volume of 90 passengers per flight.

The Kalibo and Caticlan airports are open to international flights because of their proximity to Boracay Island.

The P8.8-billion new Iloilo airport is located in the town of Cabatuan, some 19 kilometers from Iloilo City. It was inaugurated June 13, 2007 and opened to commercial flights on June 14, 2007.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) classified the new airport as Category F, which means it qualifies for international standards.

The Air Transportation Office said the New Iloilo Airport has a 12,000-square meter main passenger terminal that can handle around 1.2 million passengers annually.

The airport’s cargo terminal has a floor area of 1,300-square meters and is designed to handle as much as 11,500 metric tons. It is equipped with a 2.5-kilometer by 45-meter wide runway, which can accommodate Airbus 330 and 340 and Boeing 747 planes. The airport can accommodate 6 planes at one time.

The RDC also requested the CAAP to allow the Iloilo airport to retain at least 10 percent of its terminal fee collections. The airport charges P200 per passenger for the terminal fee. The retained amount will be used for the maintenance, sanitation and beautification of the passenger terminal building and surrounding grounds. This request is in response to complaints of the airport’s poorly maintained restrooms at the passenger terminal and inadequate janitorial services.
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Old July 5th, 2009, 07:26 PM   #246
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January-May passenger volume soars 21% at Clark airport

By Ding Cervantes Updated July 05, 2009 12:00 AM

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga, Philippines – Amid a 16-percent slump in aviation passenger volume in the Asia-Pacific region in the first half of this year, air travel via the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) here continues to surge.

The Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) reported yesterday a 21-percent increase in international passenger volume from January to May this year at the airport.

“I am happy to report that despite a 16-percent slump in the first five months of 2009 in the entire aviation industry in the Asia Pacific Region caused by the global economic recession and more recently the A (H1N1), the DMIA posted a 21-percent growth over the first five months of this year,” said CIAC president and chief executive officer Victor Jose Luciano.

Luciano noted this during the eighth leg of CIAC’s promotional campaign or “road show” held at the Camp John Hay Trade and Cultural Center in Baguio City on Tuesday. Such road shows, attended mostly by heads of travel agencies, have already been held by CIAC in key cities in provinces north of Metro Manila.

He said the 21 percent increase in passenger volume was based on figures over the same period from January to May last year.

CIAC’s corporate planning department noted 251,719 international passengers processed at the DMIA up to May this year, as against only 208,858 in 2008. This meant an increase of 42,861 passengers.

The report also showed a significant increase of passenger volume particularly last January which was noted at 27 percent comprising of 53, 068 passengers,  compared to the 41,944 passengers in January last year.

“Our CIAC roadshows are a big boost to the airport’s intent to serve as international gateway to all people in Northern Luzon,” he said.

“We invite leaders of the travel agencies, the hotel industry, the chambers of commerce, the Rotary Clubs and the Jaycees, and all other sectors to take advantage of the proximity of the DMIA,” Luciano sid.

CIAC road shows have already been held in cities and major towns in Pampanga, Bulacan, Zambales, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Ilocos Norte.

DMIA hosts foreign and local carriers such as Tiger Airways with Clark-Singapore flights, Air Asia with Clark-Kuala Lumpur and Kotakinabalu flights, Asiana Airlines with Clark-Incheon, South Korea flights connecting to the US, China and Japan.

Local carrier Cebu Pacific Air also has Clark-Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, and Bangkok flights while South East Asian Airlines (Seair) and Zest Air has Clark-Caticlan flights for tourists going to the world famous Boracay Beach.
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Old July 5th, 2009, 07:28 PM   #247
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New Check-In System at NAIA Launch

Expected to Cut check-in cues by half

MANILA - The Philippines premier international gateway is set to upgrade its safety equipment that will reduce passengers’ check-in times by more than half starting July 9 this year.

Terminals 1 and 2 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) will do away with old magnetic tape technology that requires airline workers to manually type in names and flight details of departing passengers.

Instead, the NAIA will upgrade to a 2D bar code system that will only require scanning strips of lines in airline tickets and passports, “hastening check-in procedures for passengers," an airport official said.

"Under the new system, the check-in process for passengers will be cut to less than two minutes from the original five minutes" says Octavio “Bing" Lina, assistant general manager for operations of the Manila International Airport Authority. The new system is also hoped to cut the time spent by passengers waiting in line

The upgrade to the new 2D bar code system is aimed at improving the efficiency of the airport which now handles more than 20 million passengers.

The safety upgrade is also required by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to be installed to major airports around the globe by 2010.

The shift to the New Common Use Check-In System will also make the NAIA on a par “with the world class airports such as the airports in Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and Guam," the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said in a statement.

The system will be installed, supplied, and maintained by ARINC Inc., one of the firms subsumed under the Carlyle Group, one of the largest private equity companies.

ARINC was awarded a three year contract for NAIA’s international flight and passenger operations, which includes 24/7 maintenance service. It will replace the older system maintained by SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques).

The new system will serve almost four million outbound passengers at NAIA Terminal 1 and 1.6 million outbound passengers at NAIA Terminal 2 yearly, using the 85 check-in counters and 15 boarding gates at NAIA Terminal 1 and 40 check-in counters and 15 boarding gates at NAIA Terminal 2, Serrano said.

“On the average, Terminal 1 services 40 outbound international flights while Terminal 2 services 29 outbound international flights daily," he added.

For his part, Arinc Managing Director Randy Pizzi said that its new system – called vMUSE (Multi User-System Environment) system – “will provide the MIAA with a scalable and cost effective common use platform to further upgrade its operations."
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Old July 5th, 2009, 07:29 PM   #248
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FAA lectures RP, Asia-Pac carriers on aircraft safety
As CAAP prepares for reportorial and safety compliance


Officials of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lectured airlines and major repair stations in the Philippines and its neighboring countries on the latest international aircraft safety and maintenance practices.

During the first-ever Maintenance Safety Seminar in the Philippines, the US FAA San Francisco International Field Office (SFO-IFO) and FAA Safety Team (FAAST) provided comprehensive safety practices in civil aviation maintenance that airlines and repairs stations around the world should strictly follow. The three-day seminar was sponsored by flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) in cooperation with the Civil Aviation Administration of the Philippines (CAAP).

Lori Aquilino, assistant manager of the SFO-IFO, led discussions on 14 areas in aircraft maintenance that FAA regularly monitors. These include: parts and materials, record keeping, work away from fixed location, contract maintenance, certificate requirements, maintenance and alterations, technical data, quality control system, tools and equipment, manual system, training program, personnel, housing and facilities, and maintenance process.

The FAAST Team, on the other hand, discussed safety management and risk management which are required by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to avoid aviation-related accidents.

To update the US FAA and seminar participants, CAAP Director-General Ruben Ciron presented the current state of Philippine aviation and the agency’s efforts towards lifting the country’s Category 2 rating imposed by FAA last year. Ciron was joined by other CAAP officials, including Eduardo Kapunan, Eduardo Batac, Romeo Alamillo, Teodoro Lasmarias and 14 CAAP inspectors, engineers and other operations safety officers.

A total of 165 participants from various airlines, repair stations and training organizations including the Philippine Navy joined the FAA safety seminar. There were 140 representatives from the Philippines and 25 from other countries in the Asia Pacific region. The Economic Section of the US Embassy sent two observers.

PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime Bautista told the FAA and CAAP that PAL continues to do its share in promoting safety in Philippine aviation.

"Safety consciousness is intrinsic to PAL's operations. It is part of our way of doing business. It is second nature to our staff, whether at the frontlines or the back office. We put a very high premium on safety compliance," he stressed.

Achim von Oertzen, a seminar participant and technical advisor-Aircraft Maintenance of Lufthansa Technik Philippines, PAL's aircraft maintenance service provider, said: "The [FAA] presentation made us think which processes to prioritize, which to give high importance."

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Albano of PAL's airworthiness management department, said the seminar’s emphasis was on uniformity of safety practices among operators and repair stations.

"PAL needs to strictly adhere to these safety practices to provide the best service to our passengers regardless if our airplanes are subjected to heightened surveillance by FAA inspectors in the US as a consequence of the downgrading of our country [to Category 2].”

Apart from the series of lectures, seminar participants were treated by LTP to a dinner-tour of its sprawling maintenance facilities at the NAIA complex.[abs-cbnNEWS.com]
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Old July 5th, 2009, 07:30 PM   #249
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FAA lectures RP, Asia-Pac carriers on aircraft safety
As CAAP prepares for reportorial and safety compliance


Officials of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lectured airlines and major repair stations in the Philippines and its neighboring countries on the latest international aircraft safety and maintenance practices.

During the first-ever Maintenance Safety Seminar in the Philippines, the US FAA San Francisco International Field Office (SFO-IFO) and FAA Safety Team (FAAST) provided comprehensive safety practices in civil aviation maintenance that airlines and repairs stations around the world should strictly follow. The three-day seminar was sponsored by flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) in cooperation with the Civil Aviation Administration of the Philippines (CAAP).

Lori Aquilino, assistant manager of the SFO-IFO, led discussions on 14 areas in aircraft maintenance that FAA regularly monitors. These include: parts and materials, record keeping, work away from fixed location, contract maintenance, certificate requirements, maintenance and alterations, technical data, quality control system, tools and equipment, manual system, training program, personnel, housing and facilities, and maintenance process.

The FAAST Team, on the other hand, discussed safety management and risk management which are required by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to avoid aviation-related accidents.

To update the US FAA and seminar participants, CAAP Director-General Ruben Ciron presented the current state of Philippine aviation and the agency’s efforts towards lifting the country’s Category 2 rating imposed by FAA last year. Ciron was joined by other CAAP officials, including Eduardo Kapunan, Eduardo Batac, Romeo Alamillo, Teodoro Lasmarias and 14 CAAP inspectors, engineers and other operations safety officers.

A total of 165 participants from various airlines, repair stations and training organizations including the Philippine Navy joined the FAA safety seminar. There were 140 representatives from the Philippines and 25 from other countries in the Asia Pacific region. The Economic Section of the US Embassy sent two observers.

PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime Bautista told the FAA and CAAP that PAL continues to do its share in promoting safety in Philippine aviation.

"Safety consciousness is intrinsic to PAL's operations. It is part of our way of doing business. It is second nature to our staff, whether at the frontlines or the back office. We put a very high premium on safety compliance," he stressed.

Achim von Oertzen, a seminar participant and technical advisor-Aircraft Maintenance of Lufthansa Technik Philippines, PAL's aircraft maintenance service provider, said: "The [FAA] presentation made us think which processes to prioritize, which to give high importance."

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Albano of PAL's airworthiness management department, said the seminar’s emphasis was on uniformity of safety practices among operators and repair stations.

"PAL needs to strictly adhere to these safety practices to provide the best service to our passengers regardless if our airplanes are subjected to heightened surveillance by FAA inspectors in the US as a consequence of the downgrading of our country [to Category 2].”

Apart from the series of lectures, seminar participants were treated by LTP to a dinner-tour of its sprawling maintenance facilities at the NAIA complex.[abs-cbnNEWS.com]
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Old July 11th, 2009, 10:10 AM   #250
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CAAP Tightens Flight Safety After FAA Visit

Editorial: Tricky balance of interests

Jimbo Albano / BusinessMirror

THE decision of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to impose new runway rules at the Caticlan airport, effectively curbing flights to and from that gateway to the world-famous island haven of Boracay, reflects the tricky balance that policy-makers must maintain in order to ensure uncompromisable public safety while mitigating the economic impact of decisions on business interests—in this case, the country’s top Filipino carriers.

On Wednesday, after a series of meetings with representatives of key airlines—Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific and Southeast Asian Airlines (Seair)—CAAP officials announced that effective July 9, the length of runways 06 and 24 will be shortened as part of continuing efforts to ensure aviation safety, and affirmed its “one-way” rule whereby planes taking off from Caticlan must fly toward the sea and land in the opposite direction. This rule was imposed on the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

As a result of the new runway rules, PAL and Cebu Pacific, which use big planes for the bread-and-butter route, had to scuttle altogether all their flights to and from Caticlan, diverting these instead to Kalibo. That arrangement spells extra cost for the two airlines—which will shoulder the 90-minute land trip from Kalibo to Caticlan—and inconvenience to their passengers.

From Caap chief Ruben Ciron’s explanation, the new runway rules were necessary to guarantee aviation safety, a point that was illustrated, said officials, by the June 25 incident when a Zest Air plane overshot the Caticlan runway.

Meanwhile, tourism officials are trying to appear unfazed by the impact of the new runway restrictions and the consequent decision of the airlines, with the exception of Seair, to scuttle all flights to and from Caticlan. They said they appreciated the paramount concern of public safety but, at the same time, expressed hope this arrangement would be temporary. Western Visayas tourism director Edwi Trompeta explained that as PAL and Cebu Pacific are “now using bigger aircraft and considering the length of the runway, and it being the habagat [southwest monsoon] season— where winds from the southwest are coming in—we’re a little bit concerned with the safety of the passengers.”

Meanwhile, the Caap is mired in problems of its own, some of them apparently growing out of impatience with reforms, unforeseen complications when the old Air Transportation Office was wrapped into the Caap, and some from the usual lack of resources to carry out vital reforms.

Mr. Ciron has been fending off not a few controversies himself, and it’s a fair assumption the next few months won’t see any quick resolution of many of these issues—the need for enough trained manpower, the inability to retain such skilled personnel owing to fund constraints and politicking, and the usual plague of the bureaucracy, alleged cronyism and favoritism.

Meanwhile, the Filipino airlines are racing against time while US federal aviation authorities keep holding their decision to reverse the downgrade of Philippine aviation facilities—a downgrade that is hurting the airlines’ expansion.

One hopes these issues can be resolved as quickly as possible, considering how badly the aviation sector is among those reeling from the impact of the global economic downturn.
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Old July 11th, 2009, 10:10 AM   #251
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CAAP Tightens Flight Safety After FAA Visit

Editorial: Tricky balance of interests

Jimbo Albano / BusinessMirror

THE decision of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to impose new runway rules at the Caticlan airport, effectively curbing flights to and from that gateway to the world-famous island haven of Boracay, reflects the tricky balance that policy-makers must maintain in order to ensure uncompromisable public safety while mitigating the economic impact of decisions on business interests—in this case, the country’s top Filipino carriers.

On Wednesday, after a series of meetings with representatives of key airlines—Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific and Southeast Asian Airlines (Seair)—CAAP officials announced that effective July 9, the length of runways 06 and 24 will be shortened as part of continuing efforts to ensure aviation safety, and affirmed its “one-way” rule whereby planes taking off from Caticlan must fly toward the sea and land in the opposite direction. This rule was imposed on the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

As a result of the new runway rules, PAL and Cebu Pacific, which use big planes for the bread-and-butter route, had to scuttle altogether all their flights to and from Caticlan, diverting these instead to Kalibo. That arrangement spells extra cost for the two airlines—which will shoulder the 90-minute land trip from Kalibo to Caticlan—and inconvenience to their passengers.

From Caap chief Ruben Ciron’s explanation, the new runway rules were necessary to guarantee aviation safety, a point that was illustrated, said officials, by the June 25 incident when a Zest Air plane overshot the Caticlan runway.

Meanwhile, tourism officials are trying to appear unfazed by the impact of the new runway restrictions and the consequent decision of the airlines, with the exception of Seair, to scuttle all flights to and from Caticlan. They said they appreciated the paramount concern of public safety but, at the same time, expressed hope this arrangement would be temporary. Western Visayas tourism director Edwi Trompeta explained that as PAL and Cebu Pacific are “now using bigger aircraft and considering the length of the runway, and it being the habagat [southwest monsoon] season— where winds from the southwest are coming in—we’re a little bit concerned with the safety of the passengers.”

Meanwhile, the Caap is mired in problems of its own, some of them apparently growing out of impatience with reforms, unforeseen complications when the old Air Transportation Office was wrapped into the Caap, and some from the usual lack of resources to carry out vital reforms.

Mr. Ciron has been fending off not a few controversies himself, and it’s a fair assumption the next few months won’t see any quick resolution of many of these issues—the need for enough trained manpower, the inability to retain such skilled personnel owing to fund constraints and politicking, and the usual plague of the bureaucracy, alleged cronyism and favoritism.

Meanwhile, the Filipino airlines are racing against time while US federal aviation authorities keep holding their decision to reverse the downgrade of Philippine aviation facilities—a downgrade that is hurting the airlines’ expansion.

One hopes these issues can be resolved as quickly as possible, considering how badly the aviation sector is among those reeling from the impact of the global economic downturn.
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Old July 11th, 2009, 10:12 AM   #252
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Caticlan flights reduced on runway curbs

Written by Recto Mercene

EFFECTIVE today, Caticlan runways 06-24 will be shortened in accordance with recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao), the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) said on Wednesday.

This, as the Caap’s enforcement of its “one runway for takeoff, one runway for landing” restriction continues to be disputed by air carriers, which are cutting flights to the airport, the quickest way to reach the world-famous resort island of Boracay.

From the original length of 950 meters, the runway length for runway 06 was reduced to 825 meters, while runway 24 was reduced to 875 meters.

These restrictions would be published in a notice to airmen (Notam), according to Caap Director General Ruben F. Ciron. At the same time, he said that proper runway markings would also be adopted to delineate the runway’s usable areas.

The restriction was adopted following an inspection by foreign consultants hired by the Caap to assess the Caticlan Aerodrome.

At the same time, Ciron said the “one runway takeoff, one runway landing” scheme on Caticlan Airport will continue to be observed while promising to speed up rehabilitation of the aerodrome for the benefit of the flying public.

Some air carriers would be allowed to land on runway 24 depending on aircraft capability, such as those qualified as “short takeoff and landing aircraft.”

The Caticlan Airport’s new scheme was announced Wednesday during a meeting attended by Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and SEAir.

The meeting was called to announce the new runway configuration and discuss the possibility of allowing these major carriers to land and take off on runway 06-24 of Caticlan Airport depending on aircraft capability and pilot’s assessment of the prevailing conditions.

The air carriers had said they might totally cancel flights to Caticlan, while others said they might reduce drastically their schedules if the runway restrictions are imposed.

Ciron, however, said the limitations to use one runway for takeoff and one runway for landing were published in the Aeronautical Information Publication since November 2008.

Ciron said the CAAP is not issuing a new limitation but simply reviving what was already published before.

The Caap reimposed the restrictions following two accidents involving Zest Air at Caticlan Airport, where the aircraft overshot the runway after landing on runway24.

On Wednesday, Ciron’s aerodrome adviser, John Slaughter, who studied Caticlan runway’s configurations, confirmed before the airline representatives that the current design of the Caticlan runway posed a real hazard to aircraft operations, if the restrictions are not put in place.

Ciron said the Caap will continue to gear its efforts toward finding long-term solutions to reduce the height of a hill at the approach end of runway 24, even offering to facilitate the approval papers and providing financial aid if needed.
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Old July 11th, 2009, 10:12 AM   #253
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Airlines, passengers hurt by Caticlan airport ruling

Written by Lenie Lectura & Recto Mercene w/ Ma. Stella Arnaldo

WHAT the economic crisis and swine flu had barely dented in terms of tourist arrivals to the world-famous resort island of Boracay, a quarrel over runway rules and aviation safety might just succeed.

This, as the two major domestic airlines confirmed on Thursday they had scuttled—not just reduced—all flights to Caticlan airport, the quickest way to get to Boracay, and diverted them all to Kalibo, which means passengers must take the 90-minute land trip from Kalibo to Caticlan to get to the resorts.

Both Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, which suspended all flights to and from Caticlan following changes to airport operating conditions declared by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) on Wednesday, said they will shoulder the cost of land transfers for previously booked passengers.

That would leave only Southeast Asian Airlines (Seair), whose smaller planes can still comply with the new runway rules, flying directly to and from Caticlan.

ZestAir, one of whose planes overshot the runway on June 25—an incident that triggered the runway rule changes—has since diverted all flights to Kalibo.

Caap, formerly the Air Transport Office, has designated Caticlan as a one-way airport for all carriers, i.e. takeoff should be towards the sea and landing in the opposite direction, on the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao). A technical redefinition also in effect shortens the runway, despite its actual length, said Cebu Pacific in a statement on Thursday.

“We have therefore decided to divert all Caticlan flights to Kalibo instead and from there bus all our Boracay-bound passengers at no extra cost,” said Cebu Pacific president Lance Gokongwei. This took effect on July 9.

The airline has been operating direct flights to Caticlan since February 29, 2008 and has since then carried over 340,000 passengers. It has mounted as many as 15 roundtrip flights daily to Caticlan until June 25. More than 60,000 booked passengers will be affected by the cancellation.

Total tourism receipts from Boracay for the first semester reached P7.06 billion.

Western Visayas tourism chief Edwin Trompeta said Boracay tourism arrivals had remained “strong” despite the global economic crisis and the A (H1N1) global flu outbreak. Before the A (H1N1) outbreak, DOT projected tourist arrivals in the island to increase by 10 percent to 697,799 from the 2008 arrivals of 634,363. Last year, the island brought in tourism receipts of P11.66 billion.

With these stakes, the airlines hope the runway problems are temporary. Gokongwei said “We continue to work closely with our industry partner, the Caap, to find a speedy resolution, to these airport issues, to allow Cebu Pacific to reinstate flights to Caticlan.

Boracay, he said, “continues to be one of the country’s most important tourism destinations. Cebu Pacific’s low-fare service has been integral to the growth and development of the island’s tourism industry and has increased its accessibility to both local and foreign tourists.”

Also on Thursday, PAL pulled out its Caticlan flights and transferred them to Kalibo. In the meantime, PAL will shoulder the land-transfer expense of passengers who had booked Caticlan flights. But Francisco Yngente, PAL vice president for airport services said the cost of the transfer will already be tucked into the cost of the PAL ticket in future bookings.

Tourism execs unfazed

Tourism officials are putting on a brave face despite the developments. Edwin Trompeta, regional director of the Department of Tourism for Western Visayas, expressed confidence the pullout of the carriers from Caticlan will not affect tourist arrivals in Boracay. “There is no major impact because the number of flights to Kalibo of these airlines are the same number of flights before the Caap measures were imposed.”

He conceded that some passengers may be “inconvenienced” because the land trip from Kalibo to Caticlan takes an hour and half, besides the 15-minute pump boat ride from the Caticlan jetty port to Boracay. “Plus it could add up to the cost of the airfare and their tour package because of the transfers,” he said.

Trompeta said ultimately, the diversion of the flights to Kalibo by these major carriers, “will be good for our visitors because we’re concerned for their safety. These carriers are now using bigger aircraft and considering the length of the runway and it being the habagat (southwest monsoon) season— where winds from the southwest are coming in—we’re a little bit concerned with the safety of the passengers.”

He hopes the Caap measure “could be temporary” until the amihan season (northeast winds) starts in October. The amihan season usually lasts until May or June, allowing planes to use runway 06, which is the approach from the sea. “I think this is a temporary arrangement. But the final decision is with the Caap.” At present, all carriers have been using runway 24.

According to data from the Department of Tourism, tourist arrivals in Boracay in the first half of 2009, grew by 6 percent to 383,313 from the 362,228 registered in the same period in 2008.

Trompeta said the bulk of the tourists continue to be Filipinos, accounting for 71 percent or 271,498 of total arrivals, while foreigners numbered 96,102. Balikbayans or returning Filipinos totaled 16,213.

Of the foreigners, arrivals from Korea were the largest at 34,818 in the six-month period; followed by China at 11,584; Taiwan at 8,074; and Americans at 7,130.
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Old July 11th, 2009, 10:17 AM   #254
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Boracay tourism suffers as air carriers pull out of Caticlan

Written by Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo

STARTING Thursday, major carriers are expected to discontinue flights to Caticlan, the gateway to the resort island of Boracay, in anticipation of a government order aimed at implementing a long-ignored rule on a one-takeoff and one-landing procedure.

Sources who attended a hearing between airlines and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on Wednesday said the new order will virtually leave only one carrier, Southeast Asian Airlines, plying the route.

Francisco Yngente, vice president for airport services of Philippine Airlines (PAL), confirmed to the BusinessMirror that the carrier would be flying all Caticlan-bound passengers to Kalibo instead, the capital of Aklan.

“Yes, it’s true we’re no longer flying to Caticlan starting [today]. The CAAP shortened the useable runway, so we’re shifting all our flights to Caticlan to Kalibo until further notice.” PAL, in the meantime, will shoulder the land-transfer expense of passengers who had booked Caticlan flights. Sources said Cebu Pacific was reducing flights to Caticlan to only two daily. Since June 25, it has already rerouted 10 of its 12 daily flights to Kalibo, aside from its regular two to three Manila-Kalibo flights a day using Airbus A320s. The flights to Caticlan are via the 72-seater ATR turboprop 72-500.

As for Zest Air, all its Caticlan flights have been diverted to Kalibo since June 25 as well, according to a source in the airline.

Previously, PAL had been flying its newly acquired 50-seater Bombardier turboprops to Caticlan seven to eight times a day from Manila, plus one flight a day from Cebu. It also flies twice daily from Manila to Kalibo using a 150-seater Airbus A320s.

He added that “this is so sudden, we were caught off-guard. But our pilots had a meeting with CAAP [yesterday] and they were already formally advised of the ruling.”

Sources at the CAAP meeting told the BusinessMirror the government agency began meeting with air carriers after a Zest Airplane overshot the Caticlan runway on June 25, the second accident using its Chinese-made MA60 planes in six months. The first accident in January was an undershooting of the runway, and resulted in injuries to passengers.

“The problem is really the size of the planes that are being used,” said one source who requested anonymity. Most planes are too big to navigate the very short runway in Caticlan. Under the CAAP order, all planes can only take off and land from the sea. At present, most carriers land toward or take off from the mountainside.

Asked for a reaction, Avelino Zapanta, president of Seair, said the airline was not affected by the CAAP ruling. Given the size of its planes, pilots can fly or take off coming from the sea. “We will continue flying to Caticlan,” he said.

Asked whether they weren’t being unduly penalized because of the mishap that happened to Zest Air, Yngente said, “As long as it’s for the safety of the passengers, I suppose CAAP is correct in implementing the ruling.”

Other airline sources said CAAP presented its findings that despite “corrective measures” on the part of pilots navigating the short runway of Caticlan, and given the present layout of the land which includes a mountain, plus the tailwinds and headwinds factors, “the planes will be left with only about 250 meters on the runway, which is too short” for the larger planes.

One source explained that CAAP is cracking down on violators of the airline industry publication (AIP) due to “criticisms that it was not enforcing regulations, and that we are still under Category 2 by the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration].” The Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the Air Transportation Office (ATO), forerunner of the CAAP, was downgraded by FAA from Category 1 status, denoting its safety for international airlines, to Category 2 two years ago due to the ATO’s lax regulatory measures and lack of adequate personnel.

Yngente said PAL doesn’t have plans at the moment to buy new or smaller planes to keep flying to Caticlan. “Our recommendation to CAAP is actually to level off the mountain at the end of the runway, and on the other end, extend the runway.” Plans to extend and expand the Caticlan runway had been proposed since 2000, but no funds have been raised by the government nor the private sector to undertake it.
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Old July 12th, 2009, 06:24 PM   #255
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SEAIR extends 'P350 promo fares' to BoracayShare

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/business/...-fares-boracay

MANILA - Budget airline Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAIR) has extended its lowest fares promo to Boracay.

In a statement, SEAIR said that "from now until October 15, 2009, travelers can fly to the famed beach destination for as low as P350 all-in."

To avail of the promo, SEAIR said passengers "simply have to purchase their tickets online at www.FlySeair.com until October 15, 2009."

SEAIR also said the promo offers other advantages for Caticlan-bound passengers such as complimentary transfers from the Caticlan airport to Boracay beach.

SEAIR also recently launched SEAIR Travel Care.

"For a small additional fee, passengers are assured of a worry-free travel experience as SEAIR Travel Care provides travel insurance coverage for luggage losses or damages and other travel inconveniences. It is available online at www.FlySeair.com. SEAIR Travel Care is powered by Prudential Guarantee and Assurance, Inc. (PGAI)," the firm said.

SEAIR now flies directly from Manila to El Nido twice a week.

El Nido is a group of islands with good sites for divers and snorkelers as well as beach and island-hoppers. It has "over 30 dive sites and more than 50 beaches and hidden lagoons."

SEAIR also flies five times weekly to Basco, Batanes during the Batanes summer (June to August).

SEAIR is the nation's second-oldest airline and has flown almost 3 million passengers to local destinations including Puerto Princesa, Tablas (Romblon), Clark, Zamboanga, Jolo, and Tawi-tawi, the firm said.

SEAIR also offers flights from Boracay and Puerto Princesa to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

SEAIR will soon fly to Baguio City and Masbate, the company said.

Go to www.FlySeair.com for the "best deals" or call (+632) 8490100 for more information.
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Old July 14th, 2009, 05:01 PM   #256
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Battle of Wits at RPVE
July 14, 2009

Caticlan airport operations is testing CAAP's resolved in dealing with flight safety standard issues and FAA rating upgrade against demand of airlines for some leeway. But can world standard be safely compromised?

Caticlan airport has a runway length of 950 meters. According to ICAO Aerodome standards, only aircraft with a critical rating of 2B should be allowed to use the airport. Of the four domestic scheduled operators Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Seair and Zest Airways, only Seair operates according to the world standard.

The airline utilizes a smaller Dornier 328 plane which seats 32 passengers and 3 crews. Nick Gitsis, Seair Director and 328 pilot previously said two years ago that its aircraft is the most appropriate equipment to fly for Caticlan which stand was adopted by CAAP recently.

All other operators uses 2C equipments which has an operational safety requirement of 1,200 meters to operate without restriction.

So far, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Zest Air safely operates at the airport with restricted weight limit. That means operating at the airport with less than a full load around 40-45 passengers depending on weather conditions and fuel load. However, it has been shown repeatedly that airlines usually violate this restriction under the regulators nose and no penalty was ever handed down to date.

Zest Airways operates 60-seater Xian MA60 planes, PAL Express 50-seater Bombardier Q300s, and Cebu Pacific 72-seater ATR72-500s. Although it was Zest Air that suffered landing misfortune twice due to its pilot error. Results of the investigation was not reported to the public but its factors were recently incorporated in coming out with the recommendation.

The biggest aircraft operating in Caticlan is ATR 72-500 of Cebu Pacific which normally carry two-thirds of its seat capacity. The basic landing field lenght of ATR 72 is 1,048 meters (MLW,FAR rules). At 18,000 kg. operating envelope, that is barely enough for the 900 meter runway.

However, CAAP's amendment of its AIP shortening the usable runway length and restricted approach and departure procedure of the airport sealed all other airline's aircraft operating envelope.

The runway field length for runway 06 was reduced to 825 meters, while runway 24 was reduced to 875 meters. It meant runway-end marks were moved further inside from actual runway end. From the above reference, that means Cebu Pacific will need to shed another 500 kgs. equivalent to 5 less passenger loads to safely stop at the 825 meter mark otherwise it will be classified as a landing overran even if it is still within the 950 meter runway.

From PAL, CEB and ZEST operational standpoint, that could still be doable as they can still carry at least 40 passengers but John Slaughter's recommendation to use unidirectional landing and take-off, which was adopted by CAAP Executive Director Ruben Ciron sealed the airlines operational fate to fly at the airport.

The approach and departure procedure calls it to land at runway 06 and depart at runway 24 rationally to avoid the 46-meter hill obstruction 800 meters away at the end of runway 24. Airline operators never considered it a cause for concern for departure other than for landing maneuvers.

The AIP requirement on vertical distance of at least 50 feet above the top of the hill when landing or taking off at Caticlan Airport were apparently made taking into consideration the operations of BAE-146 jets of Zest Air which it no longer operates. The new AIP failed to take into account that even if 2C aircraft types were employed, a lighter load will make the plane climb faster and lands shorter says one airline representative, which argument among others is the basis for their request for reconsideration.

Previously, the airlines’ pilots had been given the discretion to land and take off in either direction taking account wind speed, their expertise and familiarity as well as their aircraft's operational capabilities. Sadly for Zest Air, its pilot approached the runway too high.
The southwest monsoon season (a weather condition where the wind blows from southwest direction, usually starting June to October) doesn't help the airlines cause either as this requires landing on a tailwind. With the wind direction CAAP doesn't take chances on its limited runway unless airlines signed a disclaimer against its liability.

This condition effectively closes Caticlan airport to larger-size aircraft which left Southeast Asian Airlines as the lone carrier still allowed to fly with no restrictions. Affected airlines cannot use the airport until October when northwest monsoon begins and landing at runway 06 more ideal.

Industry sources however said that landing on runway 06 is still possible in the morning for larger aircraft with current weight restrictions where wind blows below 10 knots but they have to land usually before 9 AM as the wind picks up speed after that time making tail landing more difficult as it require more runway length to stop safely.

The most likely candidate that would be allowed to use the airport with 06 tail landing would be the Q300 plane of Philippine Airlines while the least to be allowed is ATR72 of Cebu Pacific which would probably have to shed more weights roughly equivalent to at least 1,000 kg. more than the present weight limit to be permitted to land at Caticlan airport.

As a stop-gap measure, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has ordered the filling up and leveling at the runway 24's end, which should add 90 meters and lengthen the runway safe area to 1,040 meters thereby allowing the ATR, as the biggest critical equipment, more landing roll just in case.
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Old July 14th, 2009, 05:01 PM   #257
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Battle of Wits at RPVE
July 14, 2009

Caticlan airport operations is testing CAAP's resolved in dealing with flight safety standard issues and FAA rating upgrade against demand of airlines for some leeway. But can world standard be safely compromised?

Caticlan airport has a runway length of 950 meters. According to ICAO Aerodome standards, only aircraft with a critical rating of 2B should be allowed to use the airport. Of the four domestic scheduled operators Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Seair and Zest Airways, only Seair operates according to the world standard.

The airline utilizes a smaller Dornier 328 plane which seats 32 passengers and 3 crews. Nick Gitsis, Seair Director and 328 pilot previously said two years ago that its aircraft is the most appropriate equipment to fly for Caticlan which stand was adopted by CAAP recently.

All other operators uses 2C equipments which has an operational safety requirement of 1,200 meters to operate without restriction.

So far, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Zest Air safely operates at the airport with restricted weight limit. That means operating at the airport with less than a full load around 40-45 passengers depending on weather conditions and fuel load. However, it has been shown repeatedly that airlines usually violate this restriction under the regulators nose and no penalty was ever handed down to date.

Zest Airways operates 60-seater Xian MA60 planes, PAL Express 50-seater Bombardier Q300s, and Cebu Pacific 72-seater ATR72-500s. Although it was Zest Air that suffered landing misfortune twice due to its pilot error. Results of the investigation was not reported to the public but its factors were recently incorporated in coming out with the recommendation.

The biggest aircraft operating in Caticlan is ATR 72-500 of Cebu Pacific which normally carry two-thirds of its seat capacity. The basic landing field lenght of ATR 72 is 1,048 meters (MLW,FAR rules). At 18,000 kg. operating envelope, that is barely enough for the 900 meter runway.

However, CAAP's amendment of its AIP shortening the usable runway length and restricted approach and departure procedure of the airport sealed all other airline's aircraft operating envelope.

The runway field length for runway 06 was reduced to 825 meters, while runway 24 was reduced to 875 meters. It meant runway-end marks were moved further inside from actual runway end. From the above reference, that means Cebu Pacific will need to shed another 500 kgs. equivalent to 5 less passenger loads to safely stop at the 825 meter mark otherwise it will be classified as a landing overran even if it is still within the 950 meter runway.

From PAL, CEB and ZEST operational standpoint, that could still be doable as they can still carry at least 40 passengers but John Slaughter's recommendation to use unidirectional landing and take-off, which was adopted by CAAP Executive Director Ruben Ciron sealed the airlines operational fate to fly at the airport.

The approach and departure procedure calls it to land at runway 06 and depart at runway 24 rationally to avoid the 46-meter hill obstruction 800 meters away at the end of runway 24. Airline operators never considered it a cause for concern for departure other than for landing maneuvers.

The AIP requirement on vertical distance of at least 50 feet above the top of the hill when landing or taking off at Caticlan Airport were apparently made taking into consideration the operations of BAE-146 jets of Zest Air which it no longer operates. The new AIP failed to take into account that even if 2C aircraft types were employed, a lighter load will make the plane climb faster and lands shorter says one airline representative, which argument among others is the basis for their request for reconsideration.

Previously, the airlines’ pilots had been given the discretion to land and take off in either direction taking account wind speed, their expertise and familiarity as well as their aircraft's operational capabilities. Sadly for Zest Air, its pilot approached the runway too high.
The southwest monsoon season (a weather condition where the wind blows from southwest direction, usually starting June to October) doesn't help the airlines cause either as this requires landing on a tailwind. With the wind direction CAAP doesn't take chances on its limited runway unless airlines signed a disclaimer against its liability.

This condition effectively closes Caticlan airport to larger-size aircraft which left Southeast Asian Airlines as the lone carrier still allowed to fly with no restrictions. Affected airlines cannot use the airport until October when northwest monsoon begins and landing at runway 06 more ideal.

Industry sources however said that landing on runway 06 is still possible in the morning for larger aircraft with current weight restrictions where wind blows below 10 knots but they have to land usually before 9 AM as the wind picks up speed after that time making tail landing more difficult as it require more runway length to stop safely.

The most likely candidate that would be allowed to use the airport with 06 tail landing would be the Q300 plane of Philippine Airlines while the least to be allowed is ATR72 of Cebu Pacific which would probably have to shed more weights roughly equivalent to at least 1,000 kg. more than the present weight limit to be permitted to land at Caticlan airport.

As a stop-gap measure, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has ordered the filling up and leveling at the runway 24's end, which should add 90 meters and lengthen the runway safe area to 1,040 meters thereby allowing the ATR, as the biggest critical equipment, more landing roll just in case.
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Old July 14th, 2009, 05:02 PM   #258
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RP amend air-services deal with UK
Fields 14 flights per week between two countries

By Lenie Lectura
14 July 2009

THE Philippines and the United Kingdom amended their air-services agreement (ASA) last week, fielding a total of 14 flights per week between the two countries.


According to the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), flights to Manila and or Clark total seven weekly fights. Another seven flights per week were allotted to other points in the country, except for Manila and Clark.

Previously, each country was authorized to field seven flights per week to all points in the Philippines, said CAB Deputy Executive Director Porvenir Porciuncula in a text message on Monday.

“A total of 14 weekly flights have been allotted per side,” he added.

There are no Philippine carrier mounting flights to the UK and vice versa, said Porciuncula.

The air talks were held from July 7 to 9. The CAB is a member of the Philippine air panel.

The other members consist of officials from the Departments of Transportation and Communications, of Foreign Affairs, and of Tourism; Clark International Airport Corp.; and representatives from local airline companies.

Porciuncula said the panel is set to hold bilateral negotiations to amend existing ASAs with China, Italy, Iceland and Korea soon.

In May the Philippines and Spain sealed a new ASA, fielding 28 weekly flights for each country. From Manila to Madrid and Barcelona, there were seven flights per week awarded to the Philippines. To Madrid and Barcelona from Clark’s Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, 14 weekly flights were allocated.

Other points in the country, except Manila and Clark, were allotted seven flights in a week. The same goes for Spain, in which daily flights were also made available except for Madrid and Barcelona.

Also, Manila was granted rights to service 200 tons of cargo per week while Clark got 300 tons per week. “For cargo, seven flights per week were also granted,” said CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla.

The Philippine-UK air pact was the ninth agreement sealed by the Philippine air panel since the start of the year. Last month, a new deal with Singapore was finalized. ASAs were sealed with Brunei and Australia in March; Kuwait and Bahrain in February; and Qatar and United Arab Emirates in January.
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Old July 14th, 2009, 05:06 PM   #259
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ZEST AIR's BRAND NEW A320 ARRIVES
Airline become new Airbus customer

Zest Air's third Airbus is expected to arrive today at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark.
Zest Air placed an order with Airbus for its first brand new single aisle A320.
The aircraft will join an existing fleet of two A320s that the airline purchased in the open market in 2008.


Ambassador Alfredo M. Yao president and CEO of Zest Air said: "With our plans to expand our operation to the Southeast Asian region, it becomes necessary to grow our fleet size.
Our A320s provide our passengers with added space and comfort and have proven to be reliable and operate at cost efficient levels."
"We are pleased to welcome Zest Air as a new Airbus customer," said John Leahy, Airbus chief operating officer - customers.
"With the lowest operating costs in its class and the highest levels of passenger comfort, the A320 will position Zest Air well to offer competitive and profitable service on its growing route network."
Zest Air currently serves a network of 20 destinations across the Philippines.
With the delivery of its newly ordered aircraft, the airline will extend its network to international destinations in Southeast Asia.
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Old July 18th, 2009, 01:23 PM   #260
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Seair enjoys Caticlan monopoly
Set to add more flights as it try to offset losses last year

Written by Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo
16 July 2009

SOUTHEAST Asian Airlines (Seair) may be able to recoup its revenue losses last year now that it remains the sole operator of the Manila-Caticlan route.

Already, Seair officials are saying the carrier will be increasing its flights to the said destination, which is the gateway to the resort island of Boracay, including taking over the Cebu-Caticlan route previously held by Cebu Pacific (CEB).

Despite the Caticlan monopoly, Seair cofounder and managing director Nikos Gitsis has assured the public the carrier would not unduly jack up its airfares for the route.

On July 9, Philippine Airlines (PAL) and CEB canceled their Caticlan routes after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) adopted a new runway configuration for the Caticlan airport, which effectively shortened the distance planes could land or take off from the airport’s runway. Both carriers, including Zest Airways, now fly passengers going to Boracay via Kalibo, leaving Seair to dominate the route.

In an e-mail to the BusinessMirror, Gitsis said: “What we are planning now is to maximize the fleet and spooling up the organization from a lean-season setup to a peak-season gearing.” The peak season in Boracay usually begins in mid-October and runs almost straight through the summer season, which ends in May. At present, the carrier flies seven to 10 flights a day to Caticlan.

“It will take about another two to three weeks, but we will be able to add more flights to the route. Since there is also no other traffic at the airport, we can maximize our turnarounds and be more efficient,” Gitsis said. The airline uses either a 32-seater Dornier 328 or a 19-seater LET-410 for the route.

Seair officials are quick to admit that the entry of PAL and Cebu Pacific has eaten into its market share, coupled with the fact that the current economic crisis and the A (H1N1) virus breakout has resulted in a general easing in the local tourism market. Despite this, they said revenue losses have been cut owing to restructuring and redeployment the carrier underwent this year.

In 2008, Seair flew 217,885 passengers, down 11 percent from 245,020 in 2007, according to data from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). For the period January to May 2009, Seair president Avelino Zapanta said its passenger traffic dipped 39 percent, “mostly on account of the debacle in Caticlan. Inevitably, the other airlines offering bigger and newer fleet took part of our traffic.”

Seair executives had expected that to happen, and as such “we had to take drastic steps to survive the competition,” Zapanta added. “Among others, we had to redeploy some of our aircraft to new destinations in pursuit of a Blue Ocean strategy. Our entry into the much-longer air sector Manila-Basco proved to be very helpful.”

Zapanta also noted the carrier underwent some restructuring “to keep Seair as a lean setup. Because of this, we had a very strong performance in the first half of this year, compared to last year, even in a smaller-size passenger count-wise. We are not after passenger growth, but rather sustained profits with priority on safety and service.”

Aside from trying to improve the top line through redeployment of resources to other revenue-generating routes, the carrier also drastically cut expenses. Zapanta explained: “Since the major carriers hubbed-and-spoked in Cebu, we decided to pull out rather than be trampled upon by the elephants. We reduced Busuanga [Palawan] because the competitors also concentrated their resources there. But we gained much in Basco [Batanes] where we are now the sole operator, as well as in El Nido [Palawan] where, other than the resort owner’s limited air operation, Seair is the only other airline in operation.”

So despite the drop in passenger traffic in the first five months of the year, Zapanta said its revenues only dipped by 18 percent. “At the onset of 2009, while the other airlines continued to bleed, Seair has stopped the bleeding. We are happy to even have just a slim margin for the whole, but with the new development in Caticlan, we will have to revisit the plans for the rest of the year.”

Zapanta stressed: “Lean, mean and small is our aim through the current business climate we are experiencing, and awaiting opportunities as they come to assess how we move.”

In terms of new routes, Zapanta said the carrier will be taking over the Cebu-Caticlan route which the CEB had to cancel because of the CAAP ruling on the runway configuration in Caticlan.

On the financial outlook for the rest of the year, he said: “Remember that we are talking of a period following the big losses of the airlines in 2008. And because of the difficult economic environment and the swine flu, the economy and most of the industry are pessimistic about the year’s performance. I think that is basically still true for most. For Seair, we will have to revisit the plans for the rest of the year in view of the unexpected development in Caticlan. But yes, we’ll try very hard to recover those revenue losses.”

Meanwhile, Gitsis said there are no plans at the moment for the carrier to raise its airfares now that it has monopoly of the Caticlan route: “It’s the lean season. Our prices will stay competitive and at the levels we have been at.”

The airline has announced it will extend its “P350 all-in” promo to Caticlan until October. Passengers are encouraged to book their tickets online at www.flyseair.com. During the peak or summer seasons, Seair airfares can go as high as P6,000-plus per passenger for a roundtrip ticket.

According to its web site, the airline has travel packages, as well, offering the public three days and two nights’ accommodation, inclusive of airfare, for as low as P7,595 per person, twin-sharing basis.

Joaquin Po, an aviation-industry analyst, said if Seair decides to increase its flights to Caticlan now that it is the sole operator of the route, “they may be able recover their losses.” He added that from his experience managing the former Asian Spirit, which pioneered the Caticlan route, “people will pay for the convenience of landing in Caticlan.”

But he believes it won’t be long until Seair will raise its airfares, given the edge it has over the major carriers. “In time, it may increase its airfares. It just makes economic sense. You are giving passengers the ease and expedience of flying virtually direct to Boracay,” he said.

As an example, when the former Asian Spirit was also flying to Basco, the airfare was competitive at P7,000 for a roundtrip flight. When Zest Air (whose owners took over Asian Spirit) pulled out of the route in early 2009, Seair started charging about P13,000-plus per roundtrip flight to said destination.

Po added, however, “Seair must realize there is a certain point at which passengers will no longer pay for that convenience of reaching their destination directly. And given the current economic conditions in the country, I believe if they do increase their airfare to Caticlan, especially in view of the upcoming peak season, this will be tempered by those conditions.”

Separetely, Zapanta clarified that contrary to common perception, the CAAP ruling also affects the airline, although admittedly not as significant as the other carriers. “We are the least affected,” he said, but given the shorter runway configuration, “at a certain intensity of the tailwind, we may incur some payload penalty, although we still can operate.” In such cases, a plane has to carry less passengers or baggage so it can still land or take off safely, or in Seair’s case, “we also divert [to Kalibo], but it seldom happens.”

According to the World Aeronautical Database, runway 06 in Caticlan has a landing distance of 2,952 feet and a takeoff distance of 3,117 feet. Its runway 24 has a landing distance of 2,900 feet and takeoff distance of 3,117 feet.

The web site of ATR, manufacturer of the ATR 72-500 aircraft used by CEB, shows the plane needs at least 3,500 feet to either land or take off.

According to Bombardier Inc., its Q300 Dash 8 plane, which is used by PAL, needs a distance of 3,608 feet to take off and 3,313 feet to land.

As such, CEB and PAL had to carry less passengers and baggage so their turboprops could use the short runway in Caticlan.
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