Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pilot shortage grounds Airphil Express flights

Low-cost airline Airphil Express was forced to either cancel or delay several domestic flights over the weekend because of a shortage in pilots, company officials said.

Airline officials said 8 flights were cancelled while 4 others had to be delayed Sunday. Nine flights were cancelled while 4 others were cancelled on Saturday.

The company said it did not expect a surge in the number of passengers in October.

Airphil Express has 20 pilots but they have all exceeded their quota in flying hours, company spokesperson Maria Jaha said. 

Airphil Express addressed the crisis by borrowing the pilots of sister company Philippine Airlines.

Some passengers eventually got on board an Airphil Express aircraft and left for the provinces on Sunday after hours of waiting. 

Others, meanwhile, were forced to rebook their flights.

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Manila airport staff get warning

Personnel at the Philippines’ Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Saturday received a warning from the airport manager not to “pester” arriving Filipino overseas workers and other passengers for holiday gifts as the Yuletide season approaches.
In a radio interview, Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Angel Honrado warned NAIA personnel that they face stiff sanctions if caught asking for gifts or cash from arriving passengers, saying this is unethical.
“They should not sing or say anything to the passengers hinting about receiving holiday gifts,” Honrado said in a radio interview.
However, he said airport officials would not censure Immigration and Customs personnel if they voluntarily receive gifts from “generous” passengers.
“Sometimes you cannot avoid it if a generous passenger gives you a gift. But definitely there will be no leeway for those who ask for gifts,” he said.
As the airport gets busier with the expected increase in the number of arriving and departing passengers at this time of the year, Honrado renewed his order to concerned personnel to tighten security measures with special focus on human trafficking syndicates that continue to victimize Filipino jobseekers.
He said he has specifically ordered tighter measures at NAIA Terminal 1, where many foreign airlines operate.
He said he also ordered closer coordination with the other concerned government agencies to prevent trafficking syndicates and other lawbreakers from setting foot on Philippine soil.

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Women in blue overalls

MYLENE EBREO, a crew chief for avionics with Lufthansa Technik Philippines, joined the male-dominated and indeed macho world of airline mechanics more than 10 years ago. The company was then still exclusively providing ground maintenance, repair and overhaul services to Philippine Airlines, and Mylene was one of the few women to be admitted to the mechanics’ ranks.

“The men would look askance at us as we walked by,” Mylene recalls, “and some of the older male supervisors refused to deal with us directly.” But through sheer hard work and reliability “My” was able to gain the trust of her supervisors and today finds herself supervising crews of as many as 80 mechanics, most of them men, per shift.

The skepticism and resistance of their male co-employees are part and parcel of the job, says My and two other women contemporaries at LTP: Shirleen “Pinky” Estrada and Ditas “Ditz” Velasco-Salayon. “We should be strong,” declares My.

Pinky is a foreman (foreperson?) dealing with the structural integrity of the aircraft they service, while Ditz is a foreman with primary responsibility for coordinating interiors.

What special qualities do women bring to their jobs with LTP? Mylene believes it is women’s natural eye for detail. “Matiyaga ang mga babae (Women are more persevering),” she notes, adding that working on aircraft demands painstaking attention to the smallest details, from using the right airplane parts to finding the tiniest cracks in airplane bodies.

* * *

ASIDE FROM being “mabusisi (painstaking),” the women mechanics are also important for what LTP vice president for marketing Dominik Wiener-Silva calls “customer interface.”

“Beauty is an asset, especially with Europeans,” says My with a smile. Since they work with client representatives from different parts of the world, it’s important for the mechanics to be able to communicate well and convey all the issues involved in the MRO—maintenance, repair and overhaul—of aircraft. Certainly a winning personality and ability to win over clients is an asset.

“We also do our job faster,” adds Pinky, who says that keeping “turnaround time” to a minimum is a prime demand of clients who of course want to keep their aircraft in the air as long and as often as possible.

Ditz tells the story of one assignment that brought her to Hong Kong to consult with an airline

that wanted their fleet interiors refurbished. At first, she says, she sensed that the client representatives couldn’t seem to bring themselves to trust her until she realized that “the common image of the Filipino woman in Hong Kong is that of a domestic helper.” One client even told her: “I couldn’t believe that you are intelligent!” But she proved her mettle, says Ditz, during a discussion on the configuration of the lavatory and she cited from memory the part number of a particular type of lavatory door lock. The clients were properly impressed.

Their work, the women concede, has brought them to foreign assignments a number of times, including training stints at Lufthansa Technik’s global headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. But Ditz, for one, says she’s no longer as eager for foreign assignments, especially long-term ones. “Our children are growing up, and six months is too long to be away from home.” Both My and Ditz are married with children while Pinky is single. “By choice,” Ditz interjects.

* * *

LUFTHANSA Technik Philippines employs 366 women out of a total of 2,700 employees, about 13 percent. Not an impressive number really (the United Nations recommendation for achieving a gender “critical mass” is 30 percent), but as Wiener-Silva points out, “it’s the largest percentage in the world,” and in the industry.

The women of LTP assume the same responsibilities as the men, and go through the same four-step training until they reach the status of Mechanic A. While Tess Fajardo, LTP vice president for human resources, doesn’t cite salary figures, she says that when ranged against the wages of the only comparable occupation of an auto mechanic, the airline mechanics at LTP are certainly compensated well.

A definite plus are the pretty short and regular work hours. “If we start work at seven in the morning,” says Mylene, “and we work fairly fast, the entire team can go home around three in the afternoon.” Mylene, as team leader, is crucial in this aspect, as it is her responsibility to plan the day’s work scope and assign the people to their tasks.

Ditz, for her part, is an active member of the Employee Council, with gender relations in the workplace as a special concern. While the still-lopsided gender balance provides fertile ground for sexual harassment, the problem seems to have been tamed at LTP. “We’ve had about one or two cases of sexual harassment in the last 10 years,” says Ditz. My, who is the most senior of the three women, concedes that the problem was much worse at the start, but now “the men have gotten used to us.”

* * *

A VISIT to LTP’s five-bay hangar is necessary to fully grasp just how impressive is the work done by this German-Filipino partnership. At the time we visited, crews were working on two aircraft of Virgin Atlantic Airways. The planes were stripped to bare metal in parts and surrounded by a metal exoskeleton of scaffolding. Around them swarmed mechanics in dark blue overalls, looking like Lilliputian villagers swarming over the two beached giants.

Air passengers rarely give a thought to the work done while the airplane is grounded. But the quality of the MRO work, as much as the skills of the pilots and cabin crew, will determine the quality of the flying experience, especially whether passengers and crew survive. They may be unseen, but the men and women of LTP are key to ensuring we arrive alive.

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DoLE allows mass layoff of 3,000 PAL employees

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has allowed Philippine Airlines’ planned mass layoff of some 3,000 employees when she affirmed the previous order of then acting labor secretary Romeo Lagman denying the motion for reconsideration of the ground crew union at the national flag carrier.

“We find the outsourcing of services and closure of the Inflight Catering, Airport Services, and Call Center Reservation Operations in Philippine Airlines to be a just, reasonable, humane, and lawful exercise of its management prerogative to reorganize the corporate structure for purposes of viability of its operations, subject to entitlement,” according to the order dated 29 October 2010, a copy of its dispositive portion was obtained by

In contrast to Lagman’s 15 June 2010 order, Baldoz’s ruling provides for an additional gratuity of P50,000 per employee and 125 percent separation pay instead of 100 percent. Other entitlements include allowing vacation leave and sick leave balances to be convertible to cash, their absorption to the respective service providers for one year, among others.

Sought for a reaction, PAL said it could not issue one as it has not yet received a copy of the decision.

In a news release, PAL Employees’ Association (Palea) the slammed Baldoz’s decision.

Palea president and concurrent vice chairman of the Partido ng Manggagawa (Workers’ Party) Gerry Rivera said: “The Department of Labor and Employment’s go signal for the retrenchment of half of the workforce means the death of job security at Philippine Airlines.”

Rivera said the union intends to appeal the decision at the Court of Appeals.

At the same time, he said, members of Palea and PM will hold a mass action at the DoLE main office in Intramuros to denounce Baldoz’s order. The protesters plan to bring a mock coffin with the message “RIP PAL Workers” and an effigy of Baldoz as the mythical “Kamatayan.”

Rivera explained that Baldoz’s decision entirely disregarded the union’s arguments and merely reiterated PAL’s position that it must outsource work to service providers in order to be financially viable.

“The order is not a win-win solution that balances the interest of workers for job security and management’s for financial viability. Instead it is simply management’s slightly improved offer disguised as DoLE’s decision,” he said.

Rivera said that Baldoz’s order means allowing the contractualization at PAL via a retrench-rehire scheme. He said PAL will retrench 3,000 regular unionized workers who will be rehired as contractuals by service providers that are partly owned by Lucio Tan.

“The loss of 3,000 regular jobs cannot be compensated by the creation of 3,000 new contractual positions. Baldoz’s decision released on the eve of All Souls’ Day is symbolic for it will conjure up 3,000 zombie positions which will have cheaper wages, fewer benefits, no security of tenure, and no protection by a union,” he said.

Palea also declared that the mass action tomorrow is just the start of a series of protests by PAL employees and their supporters from the labor movement.

An assumption of jurisdiction order from DoLE had prevented Palea from holding mass actions, including a strike since April this year. A similar assumption order was imposed on the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines while a decision remains pending at the office of Secretary Baldoz regarding the separate dispute about retirement age and other issues.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Airphil Express to acquire 20 aircraft in next 3 years

Using its P10-billion expansion program, budget carrier Airphil Express will acquire 20 aircraft in the next three years to service both its domestic and regional operations, an airline official said Friday.

This move is intended to meet the growing demands of people to travel by air, said Airphil Express executive vice president and COO Cesar Chiong.

“Our forward booking is very strong and we expect to close the year with compelling numbers," Chiong said, noting that the low-cost carrier already “exceeded its revenue expectations" for September and October.

“After our maiden flight to Singapore, we will fly to other regional routes like Hong Kong and Thailand in the coming months," he said.

Airphil Express, formerly Air Philippines, had its debut flight from Manila to Singapore on Wednesday. The carrier will fly 14 times to and from Singapore.

“This new air transport link is a strong indicator of the growing connectivity between our two countries…. This will spur business and trade, strengthen the bonds among Southeast Asians, and facilitate cultural interaction," said Consul General Neil Imperial of the Philippine Embassy in Singapore.

Apart from Airphil Express, Philippine Airlines, Singapore’s Jetstar, and Cebu Pacific fly on a daily basis to and from Singapore.

Airphil Express’ Manila-Singapore flights

leave at 4 p.m. while the airline’s Singapore-Manila flights leave at 8 p.m.

The low-cost carrier will add Cebu-Singapore (vice versa) routes on Dec. 1.

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Jin Air Kicks Off Regular Flights to DMIA

South Korea’s budget carrier Jin Air on Wednesday officially started regular international flights at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA), plying the Incheon-Clark-Incheon route five times weekly.

Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) President and CEO Victor Jose Luciano welcomed the 170 passengers of the Boeing 737-800 who departed at about 1 a.m. at the DMIA Terminal signaling the full operations of Jin Air at the 2,367-hectare Clark Civil Aviation Complex in the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.

Luciano and CIAC Vice President for Administration and Finance Lauro Ortile also welcomed Jin Air’s President and CEO Kim Jae Gun who was among the passengers of the Boeing 737-800 aircraft. A simple welcome ceremony was held at the DMIA Terminal initiated by the personnel of the Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC).

Jin Air is the latest budget carrier operating at DMIA after Air Asia of Malaysia and Tiger Airways of Singapore.

Jin Air has five Boeing 737-800 aircraft in its fleet for their operations in the South East Asian region, including Japan.

Jin Air adds to the host of foreign and local carriers operating international and domestic flights at the DMIA that include Asiana Airlines that flies daily to Incheon; Tiger Airways that flies daily to Singapore; and, Air Asia that flies daily to Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu.

Also operating flights at the DMIA is local carrier Cebu Pacific Air flies to Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, and Bangkok as well as domestically to Cebu, the Spirit of Manila Airlines that flies to Taipei, and South East Asian Airlines (Seair) that flies via to Caticlan. (AMR)

“We welcome Jin Air’s regular flights at DMIA that would not only bring in more Korean tourists to Clark but also give the people of Northern Luzon the opportunity to visit the beautiful country Korea,” he added.

Jin Air is a full subsidiary of Korean Air.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Aquino Vows to Improve Facilities in Spratlys

Is this called "Tweaking the nose of a sleeping giant???"

HANOI – The Philippine government will proceed with plans to improve military facilities in the Kalayaan group of islands in the disputed Spratlys, according to President Benigno S. Aquino III.

In an after-dinner talk with reporters at the Grand Plaza Hotel here last Wednesday night, Aquino said his government wants to improve the dilapidated airstrip on the Kalayaan Islands soon.

Aquino said the administration would formally inform other claimants to the Spratly Islands of the plan when all details have been finalized.

Navy Spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo had earlier said that the repair and maintenance of the outpost and airport runway are necessary for the delivery of supplies to troops stationed on the group of islands being contested by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and China.

The Spratlys is a group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays, and islands in the South China Sea believed to contain significant oil and gas reserves.

The Philippines is proceeding with the repair, despite opposition from emerging superpower China.

Earlier, Chinese Ambassador to Manila Liu Jianchao had informed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that the Philippine government’s plans to repair facilities in the Spratlys are not a welcome pronouncement, especially in light of the Aug. 23 Manila hostage incident in which eight Hong Kong tourists were killed.

Attending his first Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit here, Aquino hhad earlier said that he would call for a “more formalized plan” in dealing with the disputed Spratlys Islands during the Oct. 28-30 meetings.

The Philippine leader said he will reiterate the call for adherence to the Code of Conduct over the South China Sea during one of his speeches for the ASEAN Summit.

“(We will) reiterate the call for adherence to the code of conduct and an even more formalized plan towards exploiting it (Spratly Islands) perhaps on a cooperative basis. It (the call) will be part of one of my speeches,” he said.

This position was shared by Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet during a bilateral meeting with Aquino last Tuesday afternoon at the Presidential Palace.

The two leaders also have a similar stand with regard to their neighbor, the junta-ruled Myanmar(the former Burma).

Before the start of the 17th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit at the National Convention Center here, Aquino and Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva met and agreed for more cooperation between their governments in dealing with common problems such as the effects of their strengthening currencies against the United States’ dollar.

Meanwhile, former Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Deputy Secretary- General Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta has been appointed as the new ambassador to the ASEAN, replacing former Sen. Orlando Mercado.

The President said Villacorta's name has been submitted to the Commission on Appointments.

Villacorta, a professor emeritus of De La Salle University, was a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission.

He was also chairperson of the National Institute for Policy Studies (NIPS).

Asked on his expectation for the Oct. 28-30 17th ASEAN Summit and its related summits, Aquino said: “As we can gather from the theme 'From Vision to Action,’ one really wants to see that there are many problems that affect the entire region from global warming to the issue of piracy, to so many other issues that really affect not only one state. . . even the growth of our economy is so dependent on acting in unison or in concert with those who are closest neighbors.”

“So we expect that after this ASEAN summit, there will be more concrete steps towards harmonizing and really unifying the entire ASEAN region to act as one for the continuum of the problems that we all face,” he said.

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Google Stirs Up Travel Distribution Market

Google’s deal to acquire ITA Software for $700 million creates the potential for the search engine giant to shake up airline travel distribution, although Google has not detailed its plans. That leaves airlines, online travel agencies and other players to wonder whether this should be viewed as an opportunity, a source of angst or both.

“Speculation and even paranoia abound as travel companies grapple with the implications of the convergence,” says PhoCusWright, which studies how consumers buy travel. Part of the reason for that concern, PhoCusWright Research Director Carroll Rheem says, is just that Google is so big and influential.

ITA is key in the air travel distribution world, having created some groundbreaking flight, fare and seat-availability search capabilities and with a client list that includes many of the major U.S. carriers, Virgin Atlantic, online travel agencies Hotwire and Orbitz, “meta-search” aggregator Kayak, Trip Advisor and Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Some industry observers question whether an ITA client such as Kayak will want to continue using a product owned by a competitor. But Google Chairman/CEO Eric Schmidt emphasizes that Google plans to “honor all existing agreements [with ITA] and add many new partners.”

Schmidt also says Google plans to use ITA only to create flight search capabilities, providing results that would direct users to airline websites or online travel agencies (OTAs) to make the booking. Google does not plan to have its own booking engine.

“We think we can drive even more business to airlines and online travel agencies, and, as a result, we think this will also benefit Google’s overall search capability,” boosting its users and usage, he says.

Schmidt also adds some uncertainty on the matter, however, by vowing that the flight search capability Google offers will be different than anything currently seen, including Kayak’s aggregate results from multiple airline and OTA sites. “Part of the goal of the merger is in fact to do something quite different than what is available today,” Schmidt says.

What that would be is not clear. Google is not yet providing much insight into where it believes it is heading, other than one example it provided in which a user could query, “Where can I get within seven hours and with this price?”

Google’s Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience, describes that as one of the “innovative” possibilities, but it actually is not new. Late last year Lufthansa debuted a new Amadeus flight shopping tool, Affinity Shopper, that lets potential customers search for flights with criteria such as price, type of trip and region or country. Kayak offers a similar feature that also includes criteria such as average temperature and languages spoken.

Google, however, could catch consumers very early in the travel-buying process—or even before they are thinking of buying, if, for example, a search query or g-mail message indicates interest in a particular country or destination. Its travel search tool is likely to be integrated into its search engine, not confined to a separate tab or page, Rheem says.

While Google is not providing much detail on its direction, the acquisition—which will be reviewed by antitrust regulators before it can be completed—has the travel distribution community buzzing about the potential impact.

One risk for airlines is that their websites will be hit with more searches that do not result in bookings, as Googlebot crawls their sites in response to queries. With Google’s global reach, that could be a lot, notes Henry Harteveldt, vice president and principal analyst for Forrester Research. That global reach, however, also presents another opportunity for airlines to grab more customers, adds Harteveldt.

Airlines are also concerned that Google might aim to make money off the searches, beyond the standard industry model of the seller paying “per click” or “per acquisition” for consumers who come to their site via a Google search.

For now, Schmidt says only that the “economic structure” is something “we’ll sort out later.” That vagueness worries sellers, Rheem says, because the more relevant Google search becomes and the more reliant consumers become on it, the more power Google will have over advertisers, since it also sells ads based on search keywords.

Rheem says Google’s entry into the travel market is not likely to alter the competition between airlines and OTAs for bookings because Google is known for search result neutrality. But Harteveldt says that within minutes of the Google-ITA announcement, he heard from travel industry marketing and distribution professionals concerned about how Google would present airlines and OTAs when a user makes a flight query.

On its general search page, Google sells keyword-triggered ads that separately list sponsored links in the search results. The big OTAs have more money to spend on marketing than individual airlines, so they could have an advantage, Harteveldt says.

But there are also are potential opportunities for airlines, he adds. That is because Google’s new flight search tools—which presumably will include flight dates and other criteria—could give them better insight into the intent of consumers and help them more effectively target their keyword-related marketing dollars.

For example, he says, an airfare search for travel within the next three days may indicate either a business trip or last-minute vacation, and a travel seller can choose to bid more for related keywords if those types of trips suit its strategy.

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Budget Carriers to Challenge Larger Rivals on Int'l Routes

Five years after they burst onto the scene, domestic budget carriers are turning up the heat on larger airlines by launching international flights.

Jeju Air, Korea's biggest budget airline, said on Wednesday it plans to start flying between Incheon and Hong Kong, taking on Korean Air currently operating 23 flights and Asiana Airlines 14 on the route. While Jeju Air will offer only three flights per week, it aims to lure passengers with fares at least 30 percent lower than those of its larger rivals.

Jin Air on Tuesday launched service from Incheon to Clark in the Philippines, pushing into a route previously served solely by Asiana. A Jin Air spokesperson said that the flights would run at night and early morning to differentiate from Asiana, which flies during the day. The new service is targeted at tourists, especially those on golf trips.

Jeju Air also plansto launch flights to Manila on Nov. 24 and Macau on Nov. 29. In addition, it will find itself going head-to-head with another budget carrier, Air Busan, when they both debut flights between Busan and the Philippine resort city of Cebu on Nov. 25 and Dec. 23, respectively.

Foreign budget carriers are fueling the competition. Business Air Thailand has already launched Incheon-Bangkok service, while Malaysia's AirAsia, the region's largest low-cost carrier, will start operations connecting Incheon with Kuala Lumpur next month. By the end of the year, larger airlines and budget carriers are expected to be competing on 10 international routes.

In the first nine months of the year, domestic budget carriers transported a combined 632,000 passengers on international routes, accounting for 3.18 percent of the total 19.895 million international passengers. The figure has quadrupled from 0.75 percent last year.

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Airphil Express launches daily flights to Singapore

Airphil Express (APX), the low-cost carrier of tycoon Lucio Tan, is now serving daily flights to Singapore as it operates at Changi Airport's premier Terminal 2.

In a statement, APX said it started to fly the Manila-Singapore route on Tuesday, October 27.

APX operates at the Terminal 2 at the Changi airport in Singapore to give its passengers a better shopping experience.

Other budget airlines, including local carrier Cebu Pacific, operate at Changi's Terminal 3, which was designed for the fast turnovers and other operational needs of a typhical no-frills flights.

"Duty free shopping is expansive at Terminal 2 and it is ingrained in Filipino culture to bring home gifts from travels abroad," said Maria Java, APX vice president for marketing and media.

She continued, "Travelers out of Singapore to the Philippines have been very receptive of our start of operations. Even before our maiden flight on October 27, our forward sales for December are now close to full for both Singapore-Cebu and Singapore-Manila."

APX's Manila-Singapore flights leave at 4 p.m. from Monday to Sunday. The airline said it will promptly add daily Cebu-Singapore flights on December 1.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines, led by Tan, is the sister company of APX.

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‘This is age of LCC revolution’: Airphil Express boss

The rapid rise of low cost carriers (LCC) is changing the way people travel and distribution needs to change accordingly, said Airphil Express chief executive Brian Thomas Hogan.

At Aviation Outlook Asia Mr Hogan told e-Travel Blackboard that distribution systems need to adapt in line with airline evolutions.

“Airlines are trying to cooperate and reservation systems need to do the same,” Mr Hogan said, on a panel discussing travel distribution.

Also on the panel with Mr Hogan was Bahrain Air commercial director Richard Nuttall, who said the advent of the internet has been “disruptive”, soon to force expensive GDS models to compete with “new solutions in distribution”.

Due to the different nature of the Philippines market, Mr Hogan said his carrier had to use alternative distribution channels to cater to the needs of the nation’s travellers.

“In some Philippines provinces you may be able to book tickets but making the payments can be difficult, so we allow third party credit card transactions,” he said.

Mr Hogan detailed Airphil Express’ use of sales agents and even pawn shops to expand payment and distribution channels, given a lack of internet penetration in the market.

“There’s no such thing as a traditional low cost carrier in the Philippines,” he said, but added that the market was ripe for low cost travel.

According to Mr Hogan, we are in the age of a “low cost carrier revolution”.

“What low cost carriers have done is amazing,” he said and told e-Travel Blackboard the story of Airphil Express’ arrival into Tawi Tawi.

“We were greeted by bankers in tears because we not only opened up the market but provided a safe means to send cash.”

“We’re bringing air travel to the masses.”

From zero per cent of the market share of Philippines air travel in 2004, Airphil Express, with LCC rival Cebu Pacific, now have almost 65 per cent market share, he said.

Their success, Mr Hogan told e-Travel Blackboard, is because Airphil Express concentrates on value and service and makes considerable efforts to “really be in the market and localise accordingly”.

On Google’s potential entry into distribution, Mr Hogan said simply, “Bring it on”.

“At the end of the day the goal of the company is to sell flights and if someone can help me get distribution then I don’t care.”

Travel agents are not ignored in Mr Hogan’s airline strategy, representing a necessary distribution and information channel.

“Travel agents are our partners,” he said.

“In the end, we all have the same goal: to get people travelling.”

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Philippines - Jurassic presidential aircraft

Jurassic presidential aircraft

The Philippine President flew to Vietnam on a $3-million refurbished Marcos era F28 short range jet which the Philippine Air Force bought more than 35 years ago. The aircraft was eventually used extensively by P-Noy’s mother, Mrs. Aquino. FVR contemplated on the idea of purchasing a presidential aircraft when Boeing came out with a reasonable offer for an executive jet with very convenient terms. But the idea was quickly shelved when it later became clear that he was not going to stay longer than six years as president. The Philippines may not exactly be a rich country but there are many practical people who believe that it would be wise for the chief executive of this country to have a new aircraft considering we have 7,100 islands. Besides, the Fokker F28 has already reached its shelf life and is “way past its bedtime.” The aircraft has too many safety issues plus the fact that it is expensive to maintain with limited landing and takeoff capability for short runways. It’s the classic “penny wise, pound foolish.”

SPY BITS By Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) Updated October 28, 2010 12:00

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cebu Air Gains After Completing World's' Biggest IPO for Low Cost Carriers

Cebu Air Inc., the Philippines’ second-biggest carrier, climbed in its trading debut in Manila after the airline completed the nation’s biggest initial public offering in five years.

The stock rose 6.4 percent to 133 pesos at the 12 p.m. close on the Philippine Stock Exchange from its IPO price of 125 pesos. The carrier and parent JG Summit Holdings Inc. raised 23.33 billion pesos ($540 million) in the share sale. The airline’s market value is about 81.6 billion pesos.

The carrier will use the proceeds to acquire planes as it takes delivery of 24 aircraft by 2014 to increase flights, President Lance Gokongwei said today in Manila. Cebu Air estimates revenue from international routes will make up half of sales after five years, outpacing growth in domestic demand.

“Cebu Air offers a good play on Philippine tourism and a proxy on consumer spending,” said Olan Caperina, who helps manage about 500 billion pesos at Manila-based Bank of the Philippine Islands. “At its IPO price, the stock is valued at 13 times estimated earnings, which is cheaper than the overall market.”

JG Summit fell 3 percent to 24.25 pesos. The company gets about half its revenue from food, agriculture and commodities, and 24 percent from air transportation.

Overseas Investors

Cebu Air, which plans to fly 10 million passengers this year, sold 30.66 million shares in the IPO. Manila-based JG Summit sold 155.98 million existing shares. As much as 70 percent of the offering was allotted to overseas investors.

The airline had net income of $68.4 million in the first half of this year, according to its IPO prospectus. The document also said Cebu Air carried more passengers on domestic flights in the period than its bigger rival Philippine Airlines Inc., which is involved in a labor dispute with flight attendants and has a shortage of pilots.

The share sale surpassed AirAsia Bhd.’s $227 million IPO in 2004 and Ryanair Holdings Plc.’s $160 million initial share sale in 1997, Cebu Air said in a statement today. Ryanair’s market value has climbed to 6.2 billion euros ($8.7 billion) at yesterday’s closing price, while AirAsia was worth 7.1 billion ringgit ($2.3 billion) at the 12:30 p.m. break in Kuala Lumpur.

The Manila-based carrier aims to fly 20 million passengers by 2014, Gokongwei said in a speech today. International fliers will increase by as much as 35 percent, while local passengers will rise by 15 percent over five years, he said.

Market Share

Cebu Air has a fleet of 29 jets that fly to 33 Philippine and 16 international destinations. The company said its share of the domestic market is almost 50 percent while it controls 15 percent of international passenger traffic into the Philippines.

The IPO, which was priced at the middle of the 110 pesos to 135 pesos range targeted by the airline, is the Philippines’ largest since 2005, when SM Investments Corp. raised 28.8 billion pesos.

JG Summit will use its estimated $400 million share of proceeds from the sale for debt payment. The company has $300 million of debt due between 2011 to 2013, Bach Johann Sebastian, senior vice president at Cebu Air and vice president at JG Summit, said today.

Cebu Air also said it may sell an additional 28 million shares should demand exceed the stock on sale. Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank AG, JPMorgan Securities Ltd. managed the overseas sale of the shares while ATR KimEng Capital Partners Inc. arranged the domestic component of the offering.

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Philippines' biggest IPO Cebu Pacific Air soars 7% on debut

Budget airline Cebu Air Inc. jumped as much as 6.8% on its debut on Tuesday, as the country's largest public offering rode on the back of a broader market that hit a fresh record high.

The airline, a unit of conglomerate JG Summit Holdings Corp. and the second biggest Asian budget carrier by market value, raised $611 million in its IPO including a greenshoe option, making it a record amount in dollar terms for a Philippine listing.

Cebu Air's debut takes place amid a boom in IPOs in Asia as well as strong foreign demand for high-yielding emerging markets such as the Philippines.

The Philippine stock market hit a record high on Tuesday. Upbeat sentiment following presidential elections in May have helped lift the index about 40% this year and it is the second best performer in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.

This backdrop bodes well for upcoming listings in the Philippines, analysts said. Philippine miner Nickel Asia plans to raise $162 million in an IPO next month.

"Having launched successfully, the ones apprehensive on the sidelines are now emboldened to come in," said Alejandro Yu, president of R.S. Lim and Company, a local stock brokerage.

Cebu Air's shares opened at P132 after a ceremony that included flight attendants dancing the flight safety routine to a Lady Gaga pop song on the stock exchange trading floor, peppered with tube balloons carrying the airline's yellow orange colours.

The safety routine dance was a big hit on You Tube earlier this month.

The stock rose as high as P133.5, before closing at P133. The airline had sold about 215 million shares at its IPO at P125 each, Cebu Air's parent said late on Monday.

At Tuesday's close, Cebu Pacific was valued at nearly P97 billion or $2.2 billion, larger than rival Tiger Airways at about $723 million but smaller than Malaysia's AirAsia, valued at about $2.3 billion.

Growth eyed

Cebu Air CEO and President Lance Gokongwei said he expects the company's international business to overtake its domestic operations in four to five years as it seeks to increase its international capacity by 25% yearly via new foreign routes and flight frequencies.

"A natural progression in market share dictates that we will grow faster internationally than domestically," Gokongwei said, adding local operations now account for 62% of revenue.

"Revenue growth would be above 20% in the next 4 to 5 years, and hopefully our objective is to retain our margins," he said.

Cebu Air plans to use its share of the proceeds to buy more aircraft from Airbus to better compete with rivals regionally and Philippine flag carrier Philippine Airlines. It expects delivery of three more aircraft this year and 5 next year.

The airline flew the most number of passengers domestically in the first half, topping Philippine Airlines, and also flies 16 Asian routes.

Yu said the Cebu Air IPO was a big boost in confidence for the Philippine market and the company's plans to increase its flight frequency would attract business travelers, adding to its present client base comprising mostly of tourists.

Based on its IPO price, Cebu Air will trade at just over 10 times estimated December 2011 earnings, in line with Air Asia, which trades on a PE of 9.1 times 2011 earnings. Tiger Airways trades at 16.1 times forecast March 2011 earnings.

The IPO takes place against a backdrop of a flurry of new listings in Asian markets. Singapore wealth fund's GIC logistics unit GLP started trading last week and AIA, the Asian life insurance arm of AIG makes its debut later this week in what looks set to be the world's third biggest IPO.

Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan are joint global lead managers for the share sale, and ATR KimEng Capital Partners is the local lead underwriter.

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Old jet Jocky

A ragged, old, derelict shuffled into a down and dirty bar in Colorado Springs at dawn. Stinking of whiskey and cigarettes, his hands shook as he took the "Piano Player " Wanted" sign from the window and handed it to the bartender.

"I'd like to apply for the job," he said. "I was an F-4 jet jockey and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force, but when they retired the Phantom, all the thrill was gone, and soon they cashiered me as well.  I learned to play the piano at O-Club happy hours, so here I am."

The seedy Lieutenant Colonel  staggered his way over to the piano while several patrons snickered. By the time he was into his third bar of music, every voice was silenced. What followed was a rhapsody of soaring music, unlike anything heard in the bar before. When he finished there wasn't a dry eye in the place.

The bartender took the old jet jockey a beer and asked him the name of the song he had just played.

It's called "Drop your Skivvies, Baby, I'm Going Balls To The Wall For You !" said the Lieutenant Colonel.  After a long pull from the beer, leaving it empty,  "...and I wrote it myself."

The bartender and the crowd winced at the title, but the piano player just went right on into a knee-slapping, hand-clapping bit of ragtime that had the place jumping. After he finished, the jet jockey acknowledged the applause, downed a second proffered mug, and told the crowd the song was called, "Big Boobs Make My Afterburner Sizzle."

He then excused himself and lurched to the john.

When he came out the bartender went over to him and said, "Look fly boy, the job is yours ... but do you know your fly is open and your Johnson is hanging out?"

"Know it?" the old flyboy replied, "Hell, I wrote it!".

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747 taking off from Amsterdam. JUST

EVA Air Boeing 747-45EM taking off from runway 36L at Amsterdam Schiphol , Netherlands .
The great timing and angle just makes this shot, and the size of the 747 look surreal.
The distance to the fence was 145 meters (475ft)...
I wonder if anyone computed the takeoff distance prior to the trip.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mail Package Yields P2-Million Shabu Ingredient

The package says it's from India but Customs officials found something else – a dangerous chemical substance used in the manufacture of shabu or the poor man's cocaine.

A Customs broker is now in hot water after operatives of the Customs Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) intercepted the shipment of three kilos of ephedrine at the Central Mail Exchange Center (CMEC) near the Manila Domestic Airport.

The chemical compound was hidden in a package that came from India.

In an interview, ESS acting Director Joey Yuchongco said the package was consigned to a certain “Juan Carlos” of Salcedo Village Makati City.

“Upon field testing, it resulted positive for ephedrine with an estimated value of P2 million,” Yuchongco, also the Customs Police chief, said. He submitted a report to Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez.

Ephedrine is a chemical compound used in the manufacture of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.

Yuchongco said Customs broker Jason Perez went to CMEC to claim the box. However, upon closer examination, it was found it contained the illegal substance hidden inside.

ESS operatives arrested Perez following the discovery.

He said the illegal substance was brought to Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) office at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for proper disposition while the broker is subject for investigation.

As to the package's sender, Yuchongo was clueless on his real identity, saying that the name stated on the airway bill may be “fictitious.”

Authorities are still investigating who is the source of the illegal drug.

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U.S. Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon launches first sonobuoys

A U.S. Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon launched sonobuoys for the first time on Oct. 15, Naval Air Systems Command announced Thursday.

The P-8A launched six sonobuoys in three low altitude launches. Each Poseidon can carry 120 sonobuoys (50 percent more than the P-3 it is replacing) and has a rotary launch system that uses three launchers with the capacity to hold 10 sonobuoys each and launch single and multiple shots.

The 737-based Poseidon is a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. A sonobuoy is a sonar device used to track submarines.

The Navy has been testing three Poseidon aircraft at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., since this summer. The aircraft is scheduled to enter operations in 2013.

A U.S. Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon flies near the Chesapeake Bay in preparation for a test. (Liz Goettee/U.S. Navy photo) Enlarge

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Philippine Speaker Sees Need for Improving Air Transport Infrastructure

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has strongly supported moves to make a vastly improved aviation infrastructure in the country a requisite before either the legislative and executive departments can discuss open skies policy proposals.

Belmonte said a thorough study should also be undertaken to determine whether it would be the executive or the legislative department that should initiate the observance of this policy which seeks to liberate the country’s air routes to foreign carriers.

Interviewed by House reporters, Belmonte said modernization of the country’s tourism and air transport infrastructures could be among the key solutions in making the Philippine aviation industry more competitive with its neighbors in Asia.

“I believe that hardly anybody flies to the Philippines anymore and I think it is the whole system, not only the open skies, that should be considered to make us more competitive,” said Belmonte. “We can’t just say that we have better and more beautiful beaches than our neighbors.”

The House leader noted that Malaysia has overtaken the Philippines as a main destination in Asia not because it offers better tourism centers but mainly due to its modern and state-of-the-art facilities for visitors.

Belmonte is convinced that the Aquino government’s public-private partnership should cover the construction of much-needed infrastructure to make Philippines more enticing to tourists and investors.

Asked if the House will place the proposed open skies policy on the list of priorities, Belmonte said a thorough legal study must first be conducted to determine whether it would be the executive or the legislative department that should initiate it.

Some countries have resorted to open skies in commercial aviation to liberalize rules for international aviation and limit government intervention, thereby improving foreign trade and tourism.

In the Philippines, however, it had been the labor dispute at the Philippine Airlines that prompted President Aquino to threaten the imposition of an open skies policy.

The Department of Transportation and Communications has frowned on the idea as it cautioned government against taking any drastic steps to pursue the policy in the light of a constitutional provision that requires “reciprocity” with foreign air carries under an open skies regime.

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Philippine Immigration's policies in off loading passengers without explanation still clouded in Mystery

Following complaints on offloading in Manila, the Philippine Embassy reiterated it is still clarifying matters through proper channels as to what travel documents will satisfy Philippine immigration authorities to allow Filipino travellers to fly to Brunei.

The embassy said it is helping to prepare travel documents needed by Filipinos planning to visit Brunei as required by other government agencies in the Philippines.

"It is the Philippine Bureau of Immigration which requires the statutory declaration (issued by the Brunei Magistrate) and the affidavit of support and consent (issued by the Philippine Embassy) to be authenticated by the Philippine Embassy in Brunei," according to Atty Neil Brillantes, legal officer at the Philippine Embassy.

While the statutory declaration issued by the Brunei Magistrate costs $7, the affidavit of support and consent from the embassy costs $57.50.

The authentication of the document costs another $57.50.

It is advisable and cheaper to get the Brunei Magistrate's document and have it authenticated at the Philippine Embassy.

Original documents have to be sent to the Philippines. Scanned documents or facsimiles are not accepted and could lead to offloading.

Filipino travellers to a visa-free Asean country like Brunei have repeatedly complained the Philippine Embassy that their right to travel guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution is denied by the Philippine Bureau of Immigration whose mandate is to keep out undesirable aliens.

They said despite having valid passports, entry visas and statutory declarations, they are denied to board their air flights.

In answer to an inquiry from the Philippine Embassy on the offloading issues affecting visitors from the Philippines, Cebu Pacific Vice President for Marketing and Distribution responded:

"CEB's forfeiture policy for offloaded guests due to lack of valid or required documents applies to all passengers, regardless of the fare class.

"It is the responsibility of the passenger to secure valid travel documents.

"The airline's priority is to transport the passenger from his or her point of origin to the point of destination.

"A promo fare is not re-routable, non-refundable, but re-bookable subject to penalties and charges.

"Low-cost carriers worldwide has strict rebooking policies because it discourages guests from changing their flights at the last minute.

"The closer the travel date is, the harder it is to sell that seat, and the harder for the low cost carriers to operate successfully.

"The earlier they book for their flight, the lower the fare they can avail.

Rebooking must be done more than 24 hours before the flight."

Six foreign air carriers which protested the offloading of Filipino passengers with valid passports said they are losing at least 2,000 passengers a week, at a cost of $350 per passenger for each ticket worth $800 one way to the Arab countries, according to Manila media reports.

"The Etihad, Gulf Air, Qatar, Emirates, Saudia and Kuwait Airlines said they are losing hundreds of dollars everyday due to the arbitrary decision of airport immigration officials to offload these passengers.

"The foreign air carriers said the seats reserved for the offloaded passengers could no longer be sold at such short notice.

"They added that food and beverages prepared for these booked passengers also go to waste.

"Once dozens of passengers are offloaded, the airline officials said, there is an additional loss in income in terms of additional fuel loaded to the airplane that compensates for the lost weight-and-balance requirement for every flight is looked into, and the weight of any offloaded passenger or cargo is compensated for by the fuel load.

"According to the Mideast carriers, some of those who were denied boarding were workers carrying overseas employment certificates.

"However, on their return to their worksites in the Middle East, Manila immigration authorities barred them from boarding their flights without offering any explanation.

"The Bureau of Immigration said although they have profiled a traveller as a would-be tourist, they could simply deny him or her chance to leave the country if they suspect such person could become a full-time illegal worker," according to Manila media reports. -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Cebu Pacific Urged to Desist from using Facilities at Terminal 3

The Cebu Pacific Airways was urged to cease and desist from occupying the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 facilities which it has been occupying for more than two years now.

“This is without prejudice to Philippine International Air Terminals, Inc. (PIATCO) right to claim rentals from Cebu Pacific for its use of the NAIA Terminal 3. PIATCO reserves all rights and waives none,’’ said the letter, which was addressed to Cebu Pacific Airways, signed by Delfin A. Manuel Jr. and Cirilo E. Doronila, representatives for Quasha Ancheta Pena and Nolasco Lawyers.

The law firm also said that use of NAIA Terminal 3 facilities by Cebu Pacific has no authority from PIATCO. It would be recalled that PIATCO is the owner of NAIA Terminal 3 facilities.

“The writ of possession issued in 2006 did not transfer ownership of the facilities to the government. The right to exercise acts of ownership remains with PIATCO until ownership is transferred to the government upon payment of ‘just compensation,’ “the letter said.

The Supreme Court in Gingoyon emphasized that title to the property would only vest to the government upon full payment of just compensation to PIATCO.

“This has not happened yet. Any person using the facility without authority from PIATCO violates PIATCO’s rights of ownership as well as the RTC Order affirmed by the Supreme Court in Gingoyan,’’ the same letter said.

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Cebu Pacific Finally has a Member Area

For those of you who are tired of constantly typing in your details in the CebuPacific booking screen, they now, finally, have a membership section that you can join.

Look at bottom left of the screen to join up

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Guam-based Aviation Concepts expands to Subic Bay Philippines

Aviation Concepts (ACI) announced that it has leased the former FedEx hangar located in Subic Bay, Philippines, and that the hangar is currently in the final stages of refurbishment. This 100,000 square foot facility is scheduled to be fully operational by November 15th, 2010, and will serve as the company’s second functional base in Asia-Pacific.

The center will offer FBO services to transient aircraft, seeking to market itself as a low cost alternative to popular locations in Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. In a memo released to the public, the company emphasized its desire to allow for quick technical stops, with inexpensive fueling and minimal handling fees.

ACI is expecting the convenience of a full service aviation facility centrally positioned in Asia to attract significant air traffic to the Subic Bay airport.

According to President and CEO Terry Habeck, “Subic Bay is poised to become one of the busier business aviation hubs in Asia as more owners and operators seek low cost solutions in the region.”

In addition to FBO services, the center will house factory-trained technicians available 24/7 to accommodate the maintenance needs of most long and medium range business jets. Because of its special economic status as a Freeport Zone, Subic Bay has the advantage of eliminating duties imposed on inbound aircraft parts, thereby avoiding custom holds.

As soon as November, Gulfstream, Challenger and Westwind aircraft will be available for charter, and ACI will begin offering aircraft management and air ambulance services from the new base.

To learn more about ACI, please visit

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Pilot Slams into 4 buildings causing mayhem ..

Brace yourself before looking at the image below.

A pilot at low level lost control of his aircraft. It narrowly misses a crowd gathered for the air show then slams into four buildings.

One can only imagine the horror of the occupants inside those structures.........

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Philippine Immigration Officers getting more heavy handed - denying Filipinos and other nationalities their right to travel

A Brunei citizen yesterday added to the growing complaints of visa-carrying passengers bound for Brunei who were offloaded by Philippine immigration authorities for still unknown reasons.

Charge d'Affaires Celeste VinzonBalatbat said yesterday the Philippine Embassy, since last month, is still waiting for an explanation from the Philippine immigration authorities on the offloading issue.

Malai Hassan Othman, a former Borneo Bulletin journalist, said the professional consultant he hired, who was carrying a professional visa, a statutory declaration from the Brunei Magistrate, and an authenticated affidavit of support from the Philippine Embassy in Brunei, missed his flight twice.

"The Philippine immigration doesn't want to believe the Philippine government document and question the credibility of the Brunei government the Magistrates court documents," Malai Hassan Othman said.
"How am I going to recover my losses?

Who's going to pay for our inconvenience?

"I paid for his insurance so if anything happens to my professional consultant in Brunei, he is protected.

"I sought the help of the Philippine Embassy in Brunei.

The legal officer called up the Philippine Department of Immigration in Manila, but they don't seem to understand him.

"The Philippine immigration said they want to stop human trafficking to Brunei. I am going, through the hassle of getting legal documents.

Because of personal judgement and bias, my professional consultant was still offloaded, twice.

"I was told I can still invite my consultant on a social visit by getting a Filipino friend to invite him to Brunei.

Where is the rationale that they want to stop human trafficking?

"They don't seem to appreciate honesty in the Philippines.

"If you are honest, they believe you are lying.

"If you are lying they believe you are honest," Malawi Hassan said.

"There is no human trafficking in Brunei," said Atty Neil Brilliants of the Philippine Embassy Assistance to Nationals.

"Every Filipino has the right to travel.

The possession of authenticated affidavits of support, which costs $57.50, for travel purposes, is a requirement of the Department of Immigration, not the Philippine Embassy in Brunei," he said.

A Philippine Embassy consular staff said there has been a rise in applications for authenticated affidavits of supports since the coming of Cebu Pacific flights to Brunei last August 21.

Cebu Pacific said an average of five passengers are offloaded from its twice a week flights from Manila to Brunei.

Statistics, of Manila passengers bound for Kota Kinabalu, which has connecting flights via other airlines to fly to Brunei, are not immediately available.

Datin Juliana said her relative was denied travel to Brunei to celebrate the Hari Raya holidays despite a personal call by her husband, a high government official, to Philippine immigration authorities.

Even the authenticated document issued by the Philippine Embassy in Brunei was doubted as genuine by Philippine immigration, she said, prompting Consul General Raymond Balatbat to say, "The immigration authorities want us to authenticate our own signatures."

A prominent Brunei businessman said a Filipino staff he sponsored, carrying a Brunei visa, still had the passport of a relative working in Brunei faxed to the Manila airport before she was allowed to fly out. She had been denied to fly once.

"What if she has no relative in Brunei?

Why do the immigration authorities make it hard for Filipinos to get out of their country?

The mandate of the Philippine Department of Immigration is to keep undesirable aliens out, according to its official website.

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Home Built Aeroplane in Kenya

Home Built Aeroplane in Kenya - Gotta give this guy points for trying ..

Crocodile caused plane crash: survivor

A plane crash in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that killed a British pilot and 19 others could have been caused by an escaped crocodile, a magazine has reported.

The aircraft plummeted to the ground when the animal, which had been smuggled into the cabin, sparked panic among passengers, the unnamed sole survivor told African magazine Jeune Afrique.

A British expert, who is investigating the crash for the Department for Transport, said he could not rule out a crocodile as the cause, but added it would be "extremely unlikely".

First Officer Chris Wilson, from Gloucestershire, was among those killed when the Let-410 plane crashed on August 25.

It was travelling from Kinshasa to Bandundu when the plane went down not far from its destination in an area of straw-covered huts.

According to reports, the accident followed a stampede of terrified passengers fleeing the crocodile after it freed itself from a sports bag in which it had been carried on board.

Tim Atkinson, of the Air Accidents Investigations Branch of the Department for Transport, dealing with the accident from the UK, said: "If this were the cause of the accident it is truly extraordinary.

"I would say it's extremely unlikely this story holds water but I wouldn't rule it out completely."

He added that there had been reports of passengers making their way to the front of the aircraft prior to landing, which may have led to the crash.

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FAA Expected To Add Photos To Pilot Certificates

The FAA will publish a new proposed rule in the next few months that would require pilot certificates to include a photo, an FAA spokesperson said this week. Currently, pilots are required to carry a government-issued photo ID in addition to their pilot certificate. U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., recently wrote to the FAA, the

TSA and the Department of Homeland Security asking why they haven't complied with a 2004 law that requires pilot certificates to include not only a photograph but a means to record biometric data such as fingerprints and iris scans. The FAA's Sasha Johnson said the FAA will release an NPRM by the end of this year, according to The Associated Press. She also said that the current plastic certificates already are capable of holding biometric data, although no such data currently is required.

"It is mind-boggling that six years [after passing the law], after spending millions of dollars, the FAA license still does not have a photograph," Mica wrote. "The only pilots pictured on the license are Wilbur and Orville Wright. ... It is absolutely astounding that DHS, TSA and FAA could, after six years to implement the [law], still achieve such an incredible level of incompetence."

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Manila readies open-skies law

THE Aquino administration is studying the possibility of declaring a “pocket open-skies” policy to “give substance to the administration’s message that the Philippines is open for business,” an official said Wednesday.

Solicitor General Joel Cadiz said he had drafted an executive order to that effect, but he declined to say if it was patterned after Executive Order 500-A that partially liberalized the air services at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.

“It can still undergo a big revision, so I would prefer not to to give details yet,” Cadiz said.

“The Cabinet cluster just had preliminary talks on the issue.”

A Palace source said a more liberal air services policy was part of the agenda of the meeting of the Cabinet economic cluster with the President last week.

Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim had earlier submitted a memorandum to Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima citing the recommendations of the inter-agency task force on open skies composed of the Transport, Trade and Justice Departments and the National Economic and Development Authority.

Lim broached the idea of adopting a pocket open-skies policy similar to EO 500-A, as well as the lifting of the common carrier tax and the gross billing tax on airlines.

A separate memorandum from the Cabinet economic cluster underscored the importance of liberalizing the country’s air services to “give substance to the administration’s message that the Philippines is open for business.

“We recommend that this administration’s reform agenda should pursue the full implementation of civil aviation liberalization policy pursuant to Executive Order No. 219,” said the two-page memo from Purisima, Lim, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Transport Secretary Jose de Jesus, NEDA Director-General Cayetano Paderanga, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, and Energy Secretary Rene Almendras.

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Airphil Express has launched 4 new domestic destinations.

Maria Java, vice president for marketing and media, said the low cost carrier will now fly to Legaspi and Tagbilaran out of Manila using its Airbus A-320 aircraft.

It will also have Cebu-Catarman and Cebu-Ozamis flights using the Bombardier Q400 aircraft (not the Airbus A-320 as earlier reported).

Airphil Express is a sister company of flag carrier Philippine Airlines, which is controlled by tycoon Lucio Tan.

It took delivery of a 180-seater Airbus A320 last September, and is expecting 17 more to arrive in the next 2 and a half years.

Meanwhile, Airphil Express said it has also partnered with travel insurance provider Chartis Philippines Insurance Inc. for passenger insurance coverage.

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Maconacon Philippines before Typhoon Megi

Some photos from Loray of Maconacon before Typhoon Megi did her destructive work ..

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Cebu Pacific Air now offers on line check in

Air travelers leaving for foreign destinations can now spend between one and three minutes only, instead of the usual seven minutes, at the check-in counters if they take advantage of Cebu Pacific’s “Web check-in services” starting Oct 21.

Cebu Pacific, the airline that pioneered low fare air travel, e-ticketing and seat promos, is also the first Philippine carrier to offer Web check-in services to guests. It allows passengers to check-in for their flight via the Internet, select seats and print boarding passes.

Regular check-in passengers usually spend from 5 to 7 minutes lining up at the airport check-in counters, especially if they have luggage that needs to be checked in.

“This plan is very beneficial for guests who want more control and convenience when traveling. Today we start Phase 1 of our Web check-in services, which is only for international flights from Manila,” said Candice Iyog, vice president for marketing and distribution.

She said Phase II will include domestic flights from Manila and is scheduled to be launched in the last quarter.

After retrieving and reviewing their booking, travelers can select and pay for their seats, if they have not made an online seat selection upon their booking, said Iyog.

Passengers will pay an extra P200 for previously blocked premium seats on first row and exit rows, while everything else would cost P100.

“After answering security questions, they can then print their boarding passes,” Iyog added.

At the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3, there are two especially designated Web check-in counters to verify travel documents and serve as check-in luggage drop points.

The Web check-in service is available from 48 hours to four hours before a flight. It is available only for bookings made through such channels as: “CEB’s reservation hotlines and websites.”

This service will not be available to guests needing special assistance like groups of 10 or more, expectant mothers, unaccompanied minors and guests with infants, among others.

“Our main priority will always be our passengers’ safety,” Iyog said.

To check in via the Web, guest will have to access and click on the “Manage Booking” icon.

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Typhoon Megi overturns plane in Maconacon, Isabella, Philippines

An overturned airplane lay in a pond Wednesday in Maconacon, Philippines, after deadly Typhoon Megi slammed into the country early this week. (Albert Garcia/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

View Larger Map
The airstrip showing the pond (Courtesy of Loray .. )
View form the air (Courtesy of Loray)

CAUAYAN, Isabela - Members of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) visited Isabela on Wednesday to assess the situation in the province which was placed under a state of calamity in the aftermath of Typhoon Juan (international codename Megi).

Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, Office of Civil Defense Administrator Benito Ramos, and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin were also present in the assessment.

The NDRRMC visited the coastal towns of Isabela and reported to the media that these areas were the hardest hit in the province.

The agency reported that the towns of Maconacon, Palanan, and Divilacan were the hardest hit areas in Isabela.

According to Isabela Governor Faustino Dy III, these towns are now isolated after the super typhoon crossed Isabela last Monday.

Dy said the only means of transportation to these coastal towns are though air, via helicopters.

Dy said the food supplies in these coastal areas will only last until Friday, and that residents are in desperate need of medicine and construction materials to use as makeshift tents.

He said the entire town of Maconacon was destroyed to the ground. Schools which would have served as evacuation centers were not spared.

Three deaths were recorded in the area after a tidal wave apparently hit the town of Maconacon.

Dy said that they are looking at the possibility of relocating the entire town of Maconacon for safety purposes.

Gazmin said the the military is ready to lend three Huey helicopters to transport relief goods and medicines.

He said that the US military has also expressed their intention to provide aide, but Gazmin clarified that they will only seek the help of the US once they have exhausted all their resources.

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Clark International Airport Corporation


WE ALL know that Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) president and CEO Victor Jose Luciano performed some business miracles in the former US air base that is now a special economic zone.

In the process, nevertheless, Luciano created enemies among politicos in Pampanga, particularly those with business interests at the Clark aviation complex.

For instance, a politico in the province got a contract for a food business in the complex. Without much ado, thank you, the son of his mother subleased the space to a Korean manufacturing firm. And that was right inside the high security aviation complex, mind you!

Another politico operated a hotel in the economic zone, but he wanted to get some more buildings in the aviation complex, for which he was turned down.

And so now Luciano is facing cases before the Ombudsman, plus a congressional inquiry in aid of legislation.

This is the man who, way back in 2004, already brought in the first commercial passenger flights to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in the special zone, through the Asiana Airlines of South Korea.

And so today there are now over 20,000 Koreans in Clark and Subic, who have set up businesses in those areas.

The DMIA, now posting over 600,000 international passengers yearly, is preparing for the entry of more foreign airlines.

Among them is Jin Air, the budget carrier of Korean Airline (KAL), which is set to take its inaugural flight at DMIA this month.

Other Asian airlines are already serving DMIA, such as Tiger Airways (daily to Singapore) and Air Asia (daily to Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu).

That is why Luciano has this expansion plan for the DMIA terminal to accommodate two million passengers annually.

In other words, the aviation complex is becoming big business. Politicos can make a lot of money there. It is time for them to eliminate the stumbling block called Luciano.

By Conrado Banal III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:58:00 10/20/2010

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

PAL helps cornea, organ transport efforts

Global awareness on sight restoration and preservation took center stage during the observance of World Sight Day last week (October 14) with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private firms among the active partners of the World Health Organization (WHO) program.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), in coordination with the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines, is a major partner of this initiative through the transport—free of charge—of human eye corneal tissue to its domestic destinations.

Eye Bank representatives are required to coordinate with PAL’s cargo reservation at least a day before the intended date of transport. Under its handling procedure, the airline allows the shipment of one human corneal tissue per flight.

“Thousands of Filipinos are visually impaired,” said PAL president and CEO Jaime Bautista in a news release. “With very limited number of eye donors, it will take a concerted effort by both government and the private sector to bring to manageable levels the incidence of blindness and visual impairment. We are more than glad that, in small way, to be of help to those needing corneal transplants in the Philippines,” he said.

Bautista said the airline does not limit itself with ferrying corneal tissue.

PAL also accepts human organs, in specially designed containers, as hand-carry baggage on all domestic flights and provides members of government’s retrieval team with special boarding and deplaning privileges (“last-in-first-out”), he said.

Bautista explained that PAL’s detailed packaging, handling, and transport procedures for human organs have been in place for many years. However, the policy was updated in October 2009 in response to the request of the Department of Health (DoH) for local airlines to extend full support and accommodate the HOPE (Human Organ Preservation Effort) Retrieval Team of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) through booking prioritization. The team, composed of retrieving surgeons, nephrologists, and transplant coordinators, use domestic flights to transport organs retrieved from deceased donors for transplantation.

“Even before the updated policy, PAL has always accommodated members of the kidney retrieval team to carry human organs on their laps while in flight, subject, of course, to strict packaging requirements and without sacrificing the health, safety and comfort of our passengers,” said Bautista.

NKTI says the transport of human organs, such as kidneys and liver, require delicate handling as these organs are fragile and cannot withstand heat in the airplane’s cargo hold. Kidneys also have to be transplanted on patients with end-stage renal failure within 20 hours, thus necessitating speedy transport.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Airphil express to operate between Manila, Cebu and Singapore shortly

Airphil will operate 14 weekly flights between Singapore and Manila from Changi's Terminal 2 from Oct 27, and 14 weekly flights between Singapore and Cebu from Dec 1.

Singapore will be Airphil's first international destination, and it will join five other carriers currently flying to the Philippines.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Govt expects upgrade for RP aviation status

THE Philippine government is optimistic that the country’s civil aviation status will regain its original Category 1 position by March next year once the final audit by international experts is completed this year.

Aviation experts from the European Union are arriving today to assess the performance of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines while a team from the International Civil Aviation Authority would do a follow-up with a “technical audit” in December.

“The audit will confirm that the concerted efforts, sacrifices and resources that we made are on the right track towards professionalism and solid foundation of the Authority,” CAAP Director General Alfonso Cusi said.

The experts from Europe are from the European Commission and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

Cusi, in a press conference last week, said the EU experts are visiting, “specifically to assess the progress achieved by the CAAP in addressing the Corrective Action Plan identified by the ICAO, the US Federal Aviation Administration and the EASA.”

Following their assessment last year, the EU blacklisted Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific from entering European airspace.

Cusi said other areas they would look into are the ability of the Philippines to ensure the effective oversight of all or part of the air carriers under its supervision, and to assess the resources and competence of certain air operators certified by the CAAP.

Although the two air carriers do not have flights to Europe, a subsequent announcement by the EU prohibits their citizens from using Philippine air carriers until the CAAP had shown that is has complied with the “significant safety concerns” found during an earlier assessment.

The ICAO technical audit, meanwhile, will focus on the areas of legislation, organization, personnel licensing, aircraft operations, airworthiness and the SSC.

Cusi is confident that after the visit, PAL and CEB would be removed from the EU blacklist by December this year.

“The ICAO will validate the status of the implementation of th e Corrective Action Plans that were previously submitted to have fully addressed the respective protocol questions identified in the findings,” he added.

The Department of Tourism shared Cusi’s optimism.

In a speech before the 36th Philippine Business Conference, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said the government is confident of getting out of the black mark from the US FAA “by March next year once the audit is completed this month.

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