Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cargo plane crashes in the Philippines; 3 dead

An ATMA Atyra Airport and Transport Antonov AN-12BP on behalf of Pacific East Air Cargo on behalf of UPS, registration UP-AN216 performing freight flight Q8-7815 from Mactan to Angeles (Philippines) with 6 crew, was on approach to Angeles' Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (formerly known as Clark Air Base), when the airplane impacted ground about 11nm southeast of the airport. The airplane broke apart, the front portion burst into flames. 3 crew (2 Russian, 1 Bulgarian) are reported missing and presumed dead, 3 crew (1 Russian, 2 Uzbekistans) received injuries and were taken to hospital.

Ground witnesses observed the airplane flying very low about 11nm abeam of the runways 02L/20R and 02R/20L over the village of Mexico (Pampanga province) before the airplane impacted a field near the village.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) reported, that the crew reported a fire on board a few minutes prior to impact with the crew attempting to get the airplane onto the ground immediately. All 3 flight crew (1 Russian, 2 Uzbekistan citizens) survived, the three other crew/passengers (2 Russian, 1 Bulgarian) are missing.

This Mexico as well as this Angeles are located in the Philippines (not in North America - to avoid any confusion).

The airplane UP-AN216, MSN 402001, joined the fleet of ATMA in September 2009 arriving from Lao Air.

Monday, April 19, 2010

PAL to spin off non-core units after losses

PHILIPPINE Airlines (PAL) will spin off its three non-core units next month, after incurring losses during its past two fiscal years. In a statement, the country’s flag-carrier, which is observing its 69th year in 2010, said the spin-off forms part of the next phase of the company’s restructuring program. The fresh restructuring program will start on May 31.

The affected units are in-flight catering services, airport services (including ground handling, cargo terminal/cargo handling, and ramp handling) and call center reservations.

PAL said the spin-off is being pursued in accordance with labor laws and the collective bargaining agreement between the company and the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA).

The airline, however, assured its customers that the implementation of its restructuring will cause no disruption of its operations.

It added that all domestic and international flights are being operated according to published departure and arrival times.

”All PAL offices and facilities in the Philippines and overseas remain open to serve customers. And all accredited travel agents continue to sell and honor PAL tickets,” the carrier said.

PAL said it is constrained to pursue the restructuring plan due to several factors beyond its control that include, among others:

• unabated liberalization of the commercial aviation industry to the detriment of local players like PAL;
•the worldwide economic recession that led to a crippling slowdown in passenger traffic;
• record-high oil prices in 2008-2009 and the continuing increase in the price of aviation fuel, which accounts for nearly half of PAL’s operating expenses;
• the downgrade of the Philippine aviation sector to Category II by the United States, preventing PAL from using brand new long-range aircraft or increasing flights to the U.S.; and
• the subsequent blacklisting of Philippine carriers by the European Union, ruining the reputation of even those airlines with outstanding safety records like PAL.

“PAL did its best to adjust to the harsh operating environment. It implemented a series of cost-cutting initiatives, including a manpower rationalization program in September 2009 that affected more than 400 executives and administrative employees,” the company said, adding that it restructured its organization and spun-off its maintenance and engineering department to Lufthansa Technik Philippines in 2000.

Besides the series of cost-cutting initiatives, PAL said it approached several investors but none were interested. To prove its point, the carrier cited the 20 airlines that filed for bankruptcy last year.

“We approached government for help but it, too, was in dire financial straits,” PAL said. The company said
its financial situation continued to deteriorate, as it incurred over $350-million, or at least P15-billion in losses during the last two fiscal years.

Its equity also dropped precipitously to a little over $1.1-million as of February this year, the airline said.

PAL earlier reported a net loss of $54.1 million during the second quarter of its fiscal year ending March from $158.1 million in the same period last year. To stave off failure and protect company assets, PAL said it had to act quickly.

“Given this grim scenario, PAL has no choice but to restructure. It must also sell and/or cease operations of non-core businesses since no airline in Asia, or the world for that matter, continue to operate non-core businesses. Moreover, PAL has to meet its huge outstanding obligations as they fall due to prevent creditors from taking over the business,” the carrier said.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

SEAIR to open flights to La Union this summer

MANILA, Philippines - Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAIR) will open a new route to La Union province next month, just in time for the summer vacation, giving the province's tourism industry a boost.

In a statement, SEAIR said it will fly to San Fernando City starting April 14. Flights are scheduled on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

La Union, a province in northwestern Luzon, lies in the mountainous area of the Ilocos region and borders the South China Sea. Its provincial capital San Fernando City as well as the neighboring coastal towns are some of the Philippines' top surfing destinations.

SEAIR said its passengers can avail of complimentary land transfers to and from the cities of San Fernando and Baguio. Baguio City is famous for its beautiful mountain sceneries and cool weather all year round.

The airline is also offering a vacation package, which includes roundtrip airfare to San Fernando City and a 2-night stay with breakfast at La Union's famed 5-star hotel Thunderbird Resorts -- Poro Point. The package costs P11,954 per person.

Aside from La Union, SEAIR is currently serving key tourist destinations such as Boracay, Basco (Batanes), Tablas (Romblon), Marinduque, El Nido, Cebu, Clark, Zamboanga, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi.