In an unprecedented move, the European Union (EU) lifted on Thursday its ban on Philippine commercial flights and allowed all of the country’s air carriers to fly over Europe’s skies.
Assured of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines’ (CAAP) oversight capability and the Philippine airline companies’ compliance with international air safety regulations, the EU removed all of the country’s carriers from the European Air Safety List.
In a press conference on Thursday organized by the CAAP and the EU, charge d’affaires Lubomir Frebort announced, “All airlines certified in the Philippines have been removed today from the European Air Safety List and are therefore allowed to operate in the European airspace.”
Frebort pointed out that it was the first time for the entire aviation sector of one country to be removed from the air safety list or the list of banned airlines in Europe.
The lifting of the ban will allow Air Asia Inc., Air Asia Zest, Air Philippines Corp., Island Aviation Inc., Magnum Air or Skyjet Inc., Southeast Asian Airlines International Inc., and Tiger Airways to have direct flights to European destinations.
Previously the EU only allowed flag carrier Philippine Airlines and budget airline firm Cebu Pacific in European skies.
The decision of the EU resulted from the positive review of a safety assessment team from the European states which conducted in April an evaluation of the aviation safety measures in the operations of the country’s airlines as well as the oversight function of the Caap.
It was further boosted by an invitation to the CAAP and airline representatives by the EU air safety committee in Brussels early this month. During the hearing, the aviation regulating body and the airline companies presented evidence on their ability to comply with international air safety regulations.
According to Frebort, “The air safety committee, which includes representatives of all 28 EU member-states, made a unanimous positive recommendation on the basis of the evidence it heard. The recommendation was endorsed by the full college of European commissioners that met earlier today (Thursday) in Europe.”
In a later interview Frebort told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the EU committee decided to lift the ban on Philippine air carriers due to the change in the CAAP management, which proved to be a positive development for the regulating body and the country’s aviation industry.
Based on the safety audit of EU assessors, he said, the CAAP has become “well-positioned” to ensure international air safety standards would be met by Philippine airline firms.
CAAP director general William Hotchkiss III said that the development was favorable, not only to airline companies and the aviation industry, but was “Good news for all of the Philippines.”
He pointed out that it was a certification of the CAAP’s capability to act as the country’s aviation regulator.
The challenge for all members of the aviation industry, Hotchkiss said, would be to sustain this capacity to meet international aviation standards.