Suspension just a misunderstanding–Zest Air chief

By: Miguel R. Camus, August 18th, 2013 04:59 AM

AFP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The founder of Zest Air, which was suspended by air safety regulators on Friday for safety violations, claimed it was all a “misunderstanding” and he was hopeful the budget carrier would be allowed to resume flights as early as Monday after it gives its side.

In an interview with the Inquirer, ambassador and juice magnate Alfredo Yao, chair of Zest Airways Inc., said airline officials were scheduled to meet with officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on Monday to submit a comprehensive action plan and answer “point-by-point” the six safety deficiencies that led to its suspension. He said the airline was already compliant.

CAAP grounded all Zest Air flights from Manila on Friday citing the following violations: The lack of a qualified accountable manager; failure to check aircraft logs, flight manifests and the weather; failure to present to the CAAP the airman license (aircraft mechanic license) during ramp inspection; occurrence of a series of canceled flight operations; refueling with passengers on board; and excessive flight duty time for pilots.

According to Yao, the most serious of the six deficiencies was the airline’s lack of a qualified accountable manager who ensures “that all flight operations and maintenance activities can be financed and carried out to the highest degree of safety standards required by the Authority.”

Yao said he had assumed the post.

He described the other issues raised by CAAP as “minor” and argued that these did not warrant suspension.

“Safety is our primary focus. It is just a misunderstanding with CAAP,” Yao reiterated but did not go into details. “We will get through this,” he added.

The suspension stranded thousands of passengers, a Zest Air spokesperson said.

Zest Air was formally established in 2008 under Yao, taking over from the former Asian Spirit. Recently, Zest Air announced a partnership with AirAsia Berhad of Malaysia.

According to CAAP Deputy Director General John Andrews, Zest Air would remain suspended until it had complied with the regulator’s requirements.

CAAP said it was forced to act after the violations were reported by its inspectors.

Since July 31, it had put Zest Air under surveillance due to “a series of serious deviations and infractions of the rules and standards prescribed under the Philippine Civil Aviation Regulations.”

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