EUROPE is reopening its skies to Philippines Airlines (PAL) effective July 12, ending a three-year ban and in the process unlocking business opportunities for local shippers eyeing direct flights to the continent.
“Cargo can fly to Europe,” Ambassador Guy Ledoux, head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines (DEUP), told PortCalls at the sidelines of the July 10 announcement lifting the EU ban, noting this not only allowed the resumption of passenger flights but cargo services as well.
“I’ve visited this factory producing hearing aids. I talked with the manager, how he was shipping his goods, and he said he uses air cargo because the value of this equipment per drum is as expensive as gold. So there’s no point of putting that in a ship and waiting for one month’s cargo to arrive in Europe or elsewhere in the world,” Ledoux said when asked what type of Philippine-made goods are shipped to Europe.
He added the “Philippines is pretty strong in electronics. Electronics equipment is very up in the high value per weight, so that means there’s a big market for cargo.”
According to the DEUP, the Philippines’ exports to Europe include electronics, coconut oil, transport equipment, clothing and textiles, fishery products, metal products, industrial equipment and fruit products, while Europe’s main exports are electronics, chemicals products, industrial equipment, transport equipment, metal products, paper products, cereals, meat, dairy, and animal feeds.
“There is consistent evidence that direct air connection between countries have a positive impact on business relationship,” Ledoux said.
On March 21, 2010, the EU banned Philippine carriers from European skies in view of significant safety concerns cited by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
In February 2013, an ICAO audit found the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) had taken adequate action to meet international norms, paving the way for the removal of remaining significant safety concerns in April 2013.
CAAP officials meeting with their EU counterparts in Brussels on April 16 obtained positive results after presenting measures taken to improve their oversight of Philippine carriers.
CAAP director general William Hotchkiss III said EU aviation policy director Matthew Baldwin described the presentation in Brussels as “impressive.”
Meanwhile, PAL president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang said the airline will restart flights to Paris, London, Rome and Amsterdam by September or October.
“I think we are entitled to seven flights a week to London, six to seven times a week to Paris and we will have to review our agreement with other countries,” Ang told the media.
Another Philippine carrier, Cebu Pacific, is still banned from flying to EU nations. Ledoux said the airline made “quite sound compliance” but that the recent Davao accident, when an aircraft overshot the runway, showed “weaknesses” that needed addressing.
Ledoux said Cebu Pacific can apply for lifting of the ban at the next CAAP-EU air safety committee meeting in Brussels on November 29.
Ledoux said other airlines “if they feel they have made sufficient progress regarding air safety requirements and, of course, in coordination with CAAP, will be invited to the air safety committee meeting in Brussels.” –– Text and photo by Roumina M. Pablo