The Department of Tourism (DOT) urged the Civil Aviation Authority in the Philippines (CAAP) to work out a speedy resolution to the European Union’s (EU) ban on Philippine carriers which has already triggered an alarming number of tour cancellations from Europe.
Philippine Carriers banned in EU
The EU included the Philippines in its 13th updated list of countries with carriers banned from EU airspace, as a precautionary decision based on the US Federal Aviation Administration’s (USFAA) downgrading of the country’s safety rating to Category 2 and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) concerns on aviation safety regulators.
“Major European travel operators from Germany, UK and France have regretfully informed us their booking cancellations. The entire industry is affected as European arrivals account for a significant percentage of our target in the first quarter. In January 2010, air arrivals from European countries already posted an 11% growth,” said Ace Durano, Secretary of Tourism.
According to the DOT, January 2010 air arrivals from the United Kingdom totaled 7,837 for an 18% increase, followed by Germany 5,161 (.6%); France 2,537 (11.9%);
Sweden 2,048 (15%); Netherlands 1,579 (12.4%); Denmark 1,401 (3.5%); Austria 1,249 (17%); Spain 912 (8.7%); and Belgium 763 (25%).
Tour groups which were cancelled included bookings from April – August, with operators awaiting further changes in the country’s status regarding the EU ban.
“The longer we remain in the blacklist the harder it would be for us to recover from these significant losses. If we resolve this matter by the second quarter we can expect a positive recovery in the third and fourth quarters with the strong demand for our destinations,” added Durano.
While Philippine carriers have not been servicing EU member states since 1999 even prior to the ban, the EU’s prohibition prompted travel insurance companies in Europe to advise travel operators that tour packages to the Philippines which include elements of domestic air travel will not be allowed travel insurance coverage. Tour operators in turn had to cancel bookings with the difficulty in selling travel packages to the country which include inter-island travel by air.
A major French travel operator expressed, “It’s a very sad day for us. All our blood, sweat and tears in building up the European market in your country are all down the drain.”
In a statement released by CAAP, newly appointed Director General Alfonso Cusi said, “Even if RP is listed by the EU, it doesn’t mean that Philippine aircrafts are unsafe. It’s a matter of adopting to the internationally accepted audit procedures.”
Cusi further added that during his meeting with the EU Safety Aviation Committee in Brussels, the group has agreed to conduct a reinspection this May.
Durano expressed, “More aggressive efforts are needed as further delaying action will impinge on our other markets.”
Meanwhile, local carriers Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have maintained safety of their aircrafts, citing the EU’s feedback on their efforts to respond with measures on operations and ready submission to the upcoming assessment.
Philippine Airlines stated, “Safety remains the bedrock of our operations.”
Cebu Pacific said, “We continue to maintain the highest safety standards in all areas of operations.” Both likewise expressed confidence that the EU will lift the ban after the scheduled appraisal in May this year.
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