CAAP sets ground time policy for airlines
The country’s air safety regulator is now pushing for the industry-wide implementation of a minimum 45-minute scheduled ground time for domestic flights in three months—a move budget carriers said would be disadvantageous to their business model, which relies on speed and efficiency to bring down costs.
John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), on Wednesday said in an interview that the regulator would implement this policy by Oct. 1, the start of the so-called winter schedule.
Last Tuesday, the CAAP announced that the 45-minute scheduled ground time, also known as the turnaround time policy, will start with Cebu Pacific Air on Aug. 1. The budget carrier of the Gokongwei group has a turnaround time policy of 30 minutes.
The current shift in policy was triggered by a June 2 landing incident involving a Cebu Pacific aircraft at the Davao International Airport. None of the airline’s passengers were harmed during the incident but airport operations ground to a halt for two days. Investigators later determined that pilot error was behind the incident.
Andrews made the statements after CAAP called a meeting with the operations executives of each airline that operates domestic flights to discuss plans and gather comments.
He noted that the airlines’ representatives opposed the new turnaround time policy.
But the CAAP will stand by its policy because this will bolster aviation safety standards, he said.
A shorter turnaround time, for instance, could prevent pilots from getting ample rest in between flights and possibly impair their performance on the air, CAAP director general William Hotchkiss III said in a previous interview.
“CAAP is not required to get their [airlines’] approval, but we wanted to get a consensus,” Andrews explained.
He did not believe that profitability would be affected if CAAP were to give airlines ample time to prepare.
“October is months from now, so they have time,” he said.
For Cebu Pacific, CAAP gave the budget carrier an additional two weeks, from the original July 17 implementation, to allow it to adjust to the new schedule, Andrews said.
Air Asia Philippines, which follows the group-wide turnaround time policy of 25 minutes, “never compromises on safety,” CEO Marianne Hontiveros said before she was briefed on the CAAP meeting.
“We believe we can fly safely and still achieve our turnaround time. We target 25 minutes,” Hontiveros said, noting that the company would incur added costs with a longer ground time policy, which could be passed on to customers.
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