MANILA, Philippines—The Gokongwei-led Cebu Pacific Air is set be the second domestic carrier allowed by the European Union to fly to areas within its 28-member bloc after the Philippines was removed from a multiyear blacklist in 2013.
A delegation from Europe, led by EU Chargè d’ Affaires Julian Vassallo, will hold a joint press conference on Thursday with officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and Cebu Pacific CEO Lance Gokongwei regarding an update on the EU air ban, CAAP deputy director general John Andrews confirmed on Tuesday.
Andrews stopped short of saying what the actual announcement would be but he said it was likely to be positive for Cebu Pacific, the country’s biggest budget airline and a unit of conglomerate JG Summit Holdings.
“I don’t think EU officials would be flying here if the announcement wasn’t going to be positive,” Andrews said in an interview on Tuesday. “That’s as far as I will go.”
Cebu Pacific spokesman Jorenz Tañada was also mum, saying the airline “had no official information” on what would be announced on Thursday.
Such confidentiality is not unusual in these situations involving multijurisdictional regulations.
CAAP last year also gave way to EU Ambassador to the Philippines Guy Ledoux to announce that a three-year EU air ban was lifted on July 12, 2013, and that Philippine Airlines would be allowed to operate flights to Europe once again. The result was the resumption of PAL’s direct flights between Manila and London soon after the ban was lifted.
Cebu Pacific, CAAP said earlier, had withdrawn its application to be allowed to fly to Europe, given that the decision was released weeks after one of the budget airline’s planes skidded off the Davao International Airport runway on June 2, 2013.
None of the passengers were hurt in the incident, later revealed to be caused by pilot error, but the move brought increased scrutiny to the industry’s safety practices.
Gokongwei told reporters in September last year that the airline still intended to submit an application to fly to Europe.
“We believe that we operate a robust safety system in our airline and we have complied with the various CAAP recommendations, particularly with regard to improving our pilot training,” Gokongwei said.
An EU ban lifting would open up new opportunities for Cebu Pacific, which already dominates rivals in the domestic market, as it seeks to widen its presence in the long-haul business.
The airline started this segment via flights to Dubai last October using long-range Airbus A330s acquired starting in 2013.
Cebu Pacific launched flights to Japan last month and, in the second semester of 2014, it may launch flights to Saudi Arabia and Australia, Gokongwei said in March.
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