Canada open to new round of air talks with PH
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said Wednesday his country was open to having new air talks with the Philippines to discuss potential flights by Air Canada to the Philippines and additional entitlements for Philippine Airlines (PAL).
Given the huge Filipino population in Canada, demand for direct flights between the two countries is high, Baird said at the joint membership meeting of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines.
Canada’s ambassador to the Philippines Christopher Thornley, however, said PAL had not fully used its entitlements for Canada.
As for the prospects of direct flights by Air Canada, Thornley said that would depend on whether the Canadian airline would see enough demand.
“Air Canada tends to be a carrier that has a business model that depends quite heavily for its overseas trans-Pacific flights on the business class, executive class carriage. I guess they will have to determine if this market will support that,” Thornley said.
CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilia, who is part of the country’s air negotiating panel, said the Philippines was interested in amending its air agreement with Canada.
The last bilateral air talks between the two countries took place on May 30, 2008, according to the Civil Aeronautics Board. Since then, PAL has said a number of times that it wanted to add direct flights to Vancouver and to US destinations with a stopover in Vancouver.
However, the downgrade of the Philippine’s air security agency, the Air Transportation Office, by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from Category 1 to Category 2 complicated the matters. FAA’s Category 2 prohibits PAL from increasing its flights to the United States and its territories and from changing the type or increasing the number of aircraft used on these routes.
The rating has also become an issue in air talks with other Western countries although it only applies directly to the flights to the US.
On Jan. 8, 2008, the FAA downgraded the Philippines’ rating on the grounds that the Air Transportation Office of the Philippines did not meet six out of seven safety standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO.
PAL currently operates direct flights to Vancouver, Canada (five times a week), and is the only local airline serving the route. The flag carrier is seeking additional flight frequencies.
Besides CAB, other members of the negotiating panel are the Clark International Airport Authority and the Departments of Transportation and Communications, Foreign Affairs, Tourism, and Trade and Industry. Private airline companies are also represented.—Riza T. Olchondra
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