PAL Flying to Europe

The European Union has lifted a three- year-old flight ban on Philippine Airlines Inc. (PAL) and a 15-month prohibition on Venezuela’s Conviasa under the latest changes to a list of unsafe carriers, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The EU said oversight improvements by aviation authorities in the Philippines and the ability of Philippine Airlines “to ensure effective compliance with relevant aviation safety regulations” justify allowing the carrier to fly in the 28- nation bloc. It said Conviasa, Venezuela’s state airline, resolved “serious safety deficiencies.”

The decision leaves unchanged the EU’s ban on all other Philippines-based airlines including Cebu Air Inc., Southeast Asian Airlines Inc. and Zest Airways Inc. The bloc put all Philippine carriers on its blacklist in March 2010, citing shortcomings in the Asian country’s regulation of the industry. Conviasa was added in April 2012 because of “numerous safety concerns” resulting from accidents and European ramp checks.

Countries and airlines can be removed from the list “if they show real commitment and capacity to implement international safety standards in a sustainable manner,” European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said.

This is the 21st update of a blacklist first drawn up by the European Commission in March 2006 with more than 90 airlines, mainly from Africa. The ban covers passenger and cargo carriers from nations including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Liberia and Sudan.

Officials of the Department of Tourism (DOT) expect to welcome as many as 600,000 tourists from Europe, following the European Union’s move to allow Philippine Airlines to fly to the region starting 12th July 2013, according to a report by ABS-CBN.

“This signals the restoration of the Philippines as a possible gateway or hub for the rest of Southeast Asia. So we could go from roughly 300,000 European tourists we have now to easily about 600,000 over next year and a half,” Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez was quoted as saying.

“We’re talking here about 28 countries and that’s definitely going to be a significant change… Europe has always been kind of a difficult market for us… however, the significant thing is that the Philippines was once the gateway to travel to this part of the world in one point in time,” he said.

The European Commission, the executive body of the 28 member-state union, has removed PAL from its EU blacklist as safety standards of the Philippine carrier were deemed to have improved. This reverses the EC’s decision in 2010 to ban Philippine carriers from flying to the bloc.

Secretary Jimenez said the latest development will boost tourist arrivals from already strong European markets such as the United Kingdom and Germany.

Local travel agents also expect to cash in on the lifting of the ban on Philippine Airlines to fly into European Union airspace, as this development will likely boost tourism activities between the Philippines and 28 countries in Europe.

Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) president John Paul Cabalza said the organisation’s members can now “aggressively offer more packages and services built around Europe and the increased frequencies of travel.”

According to PTAA data, a European tourist coming to the country spends US$80 a day and stays in the Philippines for an average of eight days.  The Philippines is considered one of the eight cheapest destinations in Asia.

“European tourists and those from India and China stay the longest and spend more while in the country.  There is now a big area for growth with PAL flights to Europe starting again,” Mr. Cabalza said.

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