DFA asked to intervene in PH-Kuwait air row
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines wants the Department of Foreign Affairs to intervene in a row between the Philippines and Kuwait over lucrative fifth-freedom flying rights, a company statement showed.
The right, for example, allows a domestic carrier to fly from Manila to an international destination, then pick up passengers and cargo in that location and ferry these onward to a third and final international destination.
In this case, PAL was eyeing to use the rights to Kuwait through passengers and cargo picked up in Dubai. The government of Kuwait blocked this move and, citing the “principle of equal opportunity,” the Philippines on March 27, 2016 suspended Kuwait Airways’ Bangkok-Manila fifth freedom privileges that it had been operating over the last two decades.
PAL, in its statement, said the arrangement that was blocked was “clearly granted” under the Philippine-Kuwait Bilateral Air Services Agreement of 1977, as amended in April 1995 and February 2009.
In an official communiqué addressed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, PAL president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista sought the DFA’s intervention on this issue.
“We respectfully request for the support and assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs in taking the appropriate measures and initiatives that would help PAL secure the needed Kuwaiti authorization for our Dubai-Kuwait fifth freedom rights, including diplomatic protests and special representations with the Government of the State of Kuwait, as may be warranted,” Bautista said.
“The Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s disapproval undermines the principle of reciprocity in availing the grant of aviation rights and the commitment to ensure a level—playing field among parties in the ASA (Air Services Agreement),” he added.
PAL said it nevertheless launched a four times weekly service between Manila and Kuwait (via Dubai) on Jan. 17 this year to serve the needs of Filipinos in that state. However, it was not allowed to pick up passengers and cargo in Dubai heading to Kuwait.
“It is unfortunate that the Government of the State of Kuwait, through its Directorate General of Civil Aviation has disallowed PAL from carrying ‘fifth freedom’ passenger and cargo traffic between Dubai and Kuwait. Ironically, Kuwait Airways had been freely availing of 5th freedom traffic rights between Bangkok and Manila for close to 20 years,” Bautista said.
The current agreement between the Philippines and Kuwait allows eight flights per week for each country. PAL and Cebu Pacific have four flights each.
Civil Aeronautics Board executive director Carmelo Arcilla said the board had allowed Kuwait Airlines to increase its weekly flights from six to eight despite opposition from local carriers since this was a “separate issue.”
Siegfred Mison, PAL senior vice president legal and general counsel, said in the same statement that the carrier intended to “exhaust all available avenues to resolve this issue.”
“We urge the CAB to reconsider any grant of additional rights to Kuwait Airlines, until and unless PAL is granted its basic air rights as allowed under existing agreements,” he said.
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