Thursday, March 3, 2011

Open skies not possible

An option was to allow provincial airports to house aviation schools, a move which could also augment the provincial airports’ revenues.

This can free up runway capacity at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and lessen air traffic congestion.

Cebu Pacific currently operates over 260 flights daily to 16 international destinations and 33 domestic destinations. It flew almost 10.5 million passengers in 2010, exceeding targets with a 19% increase over 2009. Its international passengers also grew by 38% in 2010.

On top of that, he said, "we do not have enough check pilots" who examine on a per flight basis the physical and mental condition of the pilots and the airworthiness of the aircraft they fly.

He said the Philippines needs about 130 such check pilots. "We have only 50," Arcilla said.

The principal reason is salary. Arcilla said check pilots, who have extensive flying experience and familiarity with nearly all kinds of aircraft, are paid only about P25,000 a month. They get 50 percent more when they fly.

This is about the salary of flight attendants and stewardesses flying the Pacific route of Philippine Airlines.

He said taxes on international airlines flying to the Philippines are much bigger than in other countries. The common carrier tax in the Philippines is 3 percent. A "gross Philippine billing" equivalent to 2.5 percent is also imposed.

On top of all that, airlines pay the overtime services of government employees such as immigration, customs and quarantine officials.

The NAIA has a total area of 850 hectares, rather small for international air-transport operations. The airport has only one main runway, with an alternate.

The former Clark Air Base has a total area of 2,500 hectares with three runways fit for the big birds, according to Arcilla.

Glicerio V. Sicat, undersecretary for aviation of the Department of Transportation, chimed in and said the Japan International Cooperation Agency gave the Philippines a grant of P12 billion more than three years ago. The money is intended for computerization, navigation and surveillance. The contract was signed in June last year and so far only the technical studies, which are 43 percent of the loan, have been completed.

He said the Ninoy Aquino International Airport had been under Category 1 for about 25 years until January 2008 when the US Federal Aviation Authority had it downgraded.

In April 2010, the European Union banned all Philippine carriers from flying its routes also because of safety concerns.






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