Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Philippine Airlines studying new flights to Australia following air talks

LOCAL CARRIERS are studying the feasibility of mounting flights to Australia after two-day air talks yielded more entitlements for the Philippines.From 2,500 seats, flights between Manila and Clark to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth have been increased to a maximum of 6,000 seats per week.Flights between other regional airports in Australia and airports in the Philippines have no capacity or frequency restrictions."We welcome the developments in the recent RP-Australia air talks. 

We are always looking for new destinations that we can include in our route network expansion," Candice A. Iyog, vice-president for marketing of the Gokongwei-led Cebu Pacific, said."The Philippines’ strategic location allows us to explore this linkage opportunity," Ms. Iyog added.Businessman Alfredo M. Yao said his budget airline Zest Airways, Inc., is likewise interested in mounting flights to Australia."Yes, there is a possibility. We are looking at it. We sent a representative to the negotiations in Australia because we are interested," Mr. Yao said.

But dominant carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) said it has yet to study if it would get more entitlements to Australia. In October, PAL increased flights to Melbourne and Sydney to daily from five times a week."We are still studying the market. It would depend if there is demand," said PAL spokesman Jonathan P. Gesmundo.South East Asian Airlines President Avelino L. Zapanta said he was "cautious" regarding expansion because of the economic climate."We will be studying it, but right now it might foolhardy or unjustifiable to expand," Mr. Zapanta said.The Philippine negotiating panel, led by Transportation and Communication Undersecretary Doroteo A. Reyes II, included representatives from the departments of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry, and Tourism, as well as the Civil Aeronautics Board and airport authorities.

The Australian air panel, meanwhile, was headed by Iaian Lumsden, director of the bilateral aviation and airports division of Australia’s Department of Transport and Regional Services.Local airlines were also given fifth freedom traffic rights, meaning they can pick up passengers in Australia before flying to another destination in another country — except Singapore and the United States — but the final destination must be New Zealand.

Australian carriers can pick up passengers from the Philippines en route to Port Moresby and another point, but the final destination must be any of the following: Hong Kong, Japan, India, Bahrain, Iran, Greece, Austria, France, the United Kingdom, and two additional points to be nominated, except the US, Canada and China.Flights going to Japan, however, were restricted to 2,500 seats each per week.

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