This is very much over due, but finally the much delayed inspection by the FAA of the Philippians Air Traffic Office (ATO) and regulations is underway. The Philippines have been ranked as a Category 2 nation since January 17, 2008, when the FAA determined that the Filipino ATO did not meet International Safety Standards. What does this mean? Lets ask the FAA:
This rating is applied if one or more of the following deficiencies are identified:
- the country lacks laws or regulations necessary to support the certification and oversight of air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards;
- the CAA lacks the technical expertise, resources, and organization to license or oversee air carrier operations;
- the CAA does not have adequately trained and qualified technical personnel;
- the CAA does not provide adequate inspector guidance to ensure enforcement of, and compliance with, minimum international standards;AND
- the CAA has insufficient documentation and records of certification and inadequate continuing oversight and surveillance of air carrier operations.
What effects does a Category 2 rating have on Airlines? A lot! If the airline is already serving the USA they normally can continue to serve the USA on the route that they are already serving. However No NEW routes can be added. In addition, no code sharing can occur between US airlines and airlines from a category 2 nation.
So in 2008 when the Philippines were downgraded to a category 2, not only did this restrict Filipino airlines from expanding service to the USA, but Northwest Airlines and Cebu pacific were force to end their code share agreements and frequent flyer benefits. This was not nearly as bad as what happened in April 2010, when the EU followed the US’s lead and actually Blacklisted all Filipino carriers from flying within EU airspace!
However there’s good news on the horizon! The FAA was in the Philippines in late January 2012 inspecting the ATO and the Filipino government is certain they will regain category 1 status this year! So with this already in progress Cebu Pacific and Philippines Airlines are ready to expand!
Cebu Pacific has announced plans to start up a Low Cost No frill Long distance carrier that will fly from Manila (probably Clark) to the USA, Europe and beyond using new A330s! Although I question if Cebu Pacific can actually create such an airline and succeed. They are claiming to use Air Asia X business model for the long distance operations.
However if you know your discount Asian carriers very well, then you would also know that just after just a few years of long distance service, Air Asia X is pulling out of Europe and India and focusing only in East Asia (China, Korea, Japan) and Australia. If a leading LCC like Air Asia X can’t do it, Can Cebu?
Finally PAL is also ready to expand this year to the USA with their new fleet of 777-300s that arrive in 2012! New destinations are already announced as long as Category 1 rating is reinstated, Currently PAL flies daily from manila to Los Angeles and San Francisco and 3x a week to Las Vegas via Vancouver, Canada. The PAL dream list includes new direct flights to San Diego and Seattle and NYC via Vancouver.
All I got to say to this is i would LOVE to see the Philippines regain category 1 status! I mean I’ve flown Cebu pacific and Airphil Express in the last 2 years and lived :). But seriously, more competition and more flights to Asia always mean lower fares! Also a LCC across the pacific would be a huge win for consumers! I’m feeling $600 r/t airfare in the near horizon!