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Cebu Pacific flights to Europe expected to start next year

Cebu Pacific Air Airbus A320 at Mactan-Cebu International Airport
(PHOTO) Berniemack Arelláno
By Lawrence Agcaoili, The Philippine Star

MANILA - Budget airline Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific) of taipan John L. Gokongwei Jr. has to wait until March next year to enter European air space as efforts are currently focused on the relief efforts for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Capt. John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), said that the petition of Cebu Pacific before the European Union for the lifting of a ban preventing the airline from flying to Europe would have to wait until next year.

Andrews said Cebu Pacific is likely to make a presentation to the EU in January as the government is focused on reviving and rebuilding the provinces ravaged by the typhoon last Nov. 8.

“No that is being postponed to January now because of the present situation,” he replied when asked whether Cebu Pacific has already made representations with the EU.

Andrews, however, said the EU usually conducts review on the aviation safety compliance of airlines every March and November.

Cebu Pacific is in the middle of a $4- billion re-fleeting program involving the acquisition of close to 50 Airbus aircraft as it gears up for long-haul flights to the United States and Europe.

Between 2013 and 2021, Cebu Pacific is scheduled to take delivery of 15 more brand-new Airbus A320, 30 A321neo, and four A330 aircraft. The airline has a fleet of 47 aircraft consisting of 10 Airbus A319, 27 
A320, two Airbus A330 and eight ATR-72 500 aircraft.

Cebu Pacific president and chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei earlier said the budget airline would seek the green light from the EU in November to fly to the European airspace.

“We are planning to go to the EU this November, as you know we were planning to go in May but we decided to delay that. In November, we are going to make a formal presentation to EU authorities and we are likewise working towards a certification to be able to fly to Europe,” Gokongwei stressed.

He believes that Cebu Pacific operates a safe airline despite the incident involving two of its aircraft in the Davao International Airport and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last June.

Since those incidents, Gokongwei said, the airline has complied with the recommendations of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) particularly on the training of its pilots as well as the review of its flight operating system by experts from Airbus.

“Based on that we continue to work towards to going to Europe in cooperation with the CAB and the other EU governments to make our case to the EU aviation sector this November,” Gokongwei said.

Last July 10, the EU announced the lifting of a ban imposed in 2010 that would allow national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) to fly again to Europe after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) addressed major safety concerns.

No less than PAL president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang announced that the airline is looking at returning to popular European destinations such as London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rome, and Madrid.

Gokongwei refused to divulge the details of the planned flights to Europe once the ban on the airline is lifted by the EU.

He added that Cebu Pacific is also looking at mounting flights to the US, particularly Guam and Hawaii, once the country’s status is upgraded by the US Federal Aviation Administration (US-FAA) back to Category 1 within the year.

In 2008, the safety rating of the Philippines was downgraded by the US FAA upon the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to Category 2 from Category 1after CAAP failed to comply with safety standards for the oversight of air carrier operations.

It would be recalled that ICAO lifted the remaining significant security concerns after the Philippines, through the CAAP, passed the audit conducted from Feb. 18 to Feb. 22, paving the way for the series of upgrades.

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