Philippine Airlines can fly to Europe again

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

MANILA -- Starting July 12, Philippine Airlines can fly into European skies after the government met international safety standards.

"Following improvements in the safety situation in the Philippines, Philippine Airlines (PAL) is the first airline from this country allowed back into European skies since 2010," the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines said in a statement.

EU ended the ban after taking into account the improved safety oversight provided by the Philippines authorities, and the ability of PAL to ensure effective compliance with relevant aviation safety regulations, and following an on-site safety assessment visit last June.

EU’s decision was based on the unanimous opinion of the EU Air Safety Committee in which safety experts from each of the 28 member states participate, as well as from Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux and PAL hailed the effort of the concerned government agencies, particularly the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap), to address the air safety concerns.

(Photos published with permission from the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines)

PAL, which saw the development as testimony to its reputation as a safe airline, said it is preparing to resume flights sometime in September or October to popular European destinations such as London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rome and Madrid.

“When we fly back to Europe after an absence of 15 years, we can boast of a newer fleet of aircraft and top quality customer service,” said PAL president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang.

Malacañang is hoping that the reopening of direct flights to Europe will boost tourism, enhance competitiveness, and facilitate the entry of investments from the continent.

"The determination and hard work that have resulted in the upgrading of the country’s aviation status will generate positive, far-reaching effects for the local aviation industry and the country in general," said Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

All air carriers from the Philippines were banned from the EU in March 2010 following very poor results from an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) audit in 2009 that led to a significant safety concern (SSC) issued by ICAO.

A follow-up audit by ICAO in October 2012 showed some improvements had been made; however, the SSC was not removed and another added. A further audit last February found sufficient progress had been made to lift both the SSCs.

Representatives from EU Commission’s Directorate General for Mobility and Transport conducted an on-site visit on June 3 to 7 to verify the situation, and to provide information for the Air Safety Committee (ASC) to aid the deliberations on any potential lifting of the current restrictions.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya earlier expressed hope that the United States Federal Aviation Authority would also upgrade the Philippines to Category 1 after it placed the country's aviation industry to Category 2.

Because of FAA's move, Philippine carriers could not expand its operation in the US, dampening hopes to attract more American tourists. (SDR/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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