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CAAP lifts suspension order on Yao’s Zest Air

By: Miguel R. Camus, August 20th, 2013 09:07 PM

The air safety regulator lifted a multi-day suspension on Zest Air Monday night after it determined that the budget carrier owned by businessman Alfredo Yao had complied with its requirements, an official of the regulator said Tuesday.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) deputy director general John Andrews said in an interview that the air operator certificate of Zest Air was restored, meaning it would be allowed to resume full operations after the regulator has finished inspecting each aircraft.

Andrews said CAAP released three aircraft Tuesday afternoon but efforts to complete the inspection of Zest Air’s full 11-plane fleet had been hampered by poor weather brought by monsoon rains.

“The release of the aircraft depends on the outcome of the inspection. So right now it’s a selective lifting,” Andrews said in an interview.

He said one of the planes was released as of Monday night.

“We will go back to normal operations as soon as possible,” Zest Air director Joy Caneba said separately. She noted that the suspension lifting “confirms that Zest Air has been operating following the standards required.”

Zest Air, which mainly operates Airbus A320 and A319 planes, travels to local and international routes like Hong Kong, Macau and Kuala Lumpur. It has a market share of 10 percent for domestic flights and 3 percent for international flights.

CAAP ordered the immediate suspension of Zest Air Friday afternoon after its inspectors discovered that the airline was deficient in six areas, including its not having a qualified accountable manager, a key position that oversees safety, since July 19.

Zest Air argued that it was not given due process. Its suspension affected thousands of passengers, which had to be refunded or rebooked, and cost the airline an estimated P300 million in forgone revenues and added expenses as of yesterday, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Zest Air chair and CEO Alfredo Yao had assumed the post of accountable manager, he said in an interview last week.  Yao, who noted that the suspension had hurt the airline’s reputation, said management would have to “double its efforts.”

Yao, the country’s 42nd richest man with a fortune estimated by Forbes Magazine at $180 million in July, is behind juice maker Zest-O and the local licensee of RC Cola as well as listed Philippine Business Bank.

Yao early this year sold a minority stake in Zest Air to Malaysia’s Air Asia Berhad, the region’s biggest low-cost carrier.

The other violations cited by CAAP for grounding all Zest Air flights from Manila on Friday also included the following: 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.

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