As Philippines gets upgrade, Thailand, Indonesia come under spotlighthttp://asia.nikkei.com/Business/AC/As-P ... -spotlight
MANILA -- The Philippines on Thursday night was given an important aviation safety upgrade from the European Union, which took all the remaining local carriers off its blacklist.
"All airlines certified in the Philippines, banned since 2010, have been released from the list and are therefore allowed to operate in European airspace," a statement from the EU said.
The EU had blacklisted all Philippine carriers in 2010 due to shortcomings in the country's regulation of the industry. After improvements it had removed Philippine Airlines from the list in July 2013, allowing it to fly to London in November of that year. Cebu Pacific Air, the largest Philippine budget carrier and operated by Cebu Air, was taken off the list last year, but has yet to fly in European skies.
Smaller airlines like Air Philippines, Air Asia Philippines, Skyjet, Island Aviation and South East Asian Airlines International stand to benefit from the upgrade, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
The EU's announcement came after a safety audit between April 16 and 24, and an Air Safety Committee meeting in Brussels on June 9 and 10.
The complete lifting of the EU ban reflects the reforms that have taken place to Philippine air safety regulations, previously deemed substandard by international civil aviation authorities.
The U.S. national aviation authority, the Federal Aviation Administration, last year upgraded the Philippines to Category 1, from the Category 2 status it imposed in 2008 after a 2007 safety audit.
The International Civil Aviation Organization in 2009 tagged the Philippines as a "significant safety concern," prompting the EU to blacklist local airlines in 2010. Japanese and South Korean authorities for a time also imposed restrictions on new Philippine flights.
Unable to expand routes due to the ban, the operational efficiency of Philippine carriers suffered. PAL was unable to maximize its long-range Boeing airplanes due to theCategory 2 rating restricting it from flying beyond Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu and Guam. The FAA upgrade last year allowed PAL to add New York to its U.S. operations.
On Friday, local airlines cheered the EU upgrade although they had no immediate plans to fly to Europe. Air Philippines said the lifting of EU ban "will be beneficial [to its] expansion program." Air Asia, meanwhile, hailed it "great news for the tourism industry and the economy."
The spotlight now shifts to Thailand and Indonesia, whose aviation safety standards have been questioned by regulators, Jakarta-based independent aviation consultant Gerry Soejatman said on Friday. "There were talks early this morning that if the Philippines made it, why can't we?"
"What the Philippines has done is that they [thelocal civil aviation authorities] did not blame anybody, they did not look for a scapegoat, they fixed the problem," Soejatman said.
Thailand has been recently classified by the ICAO as a "significant safety concern." Indonesia, for its part, has been languishing in the FAA's Category 2 status since 2007, while only a few carriers can fly to Europe.
The lack of manpower remains an issue that needs to be addressed in Indonesia, while Thailand's political situation is hampering the development of safety regulations.
"In Indonesia, we don't have enough people. We only have 20-30 inspectors when we need 50."
Additional reporting by Nikkei staff writers Wataru Suzuki in Jakarta and Yukako Ono in Bangkok.
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