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Philippines Is Taken Off the Blacklist

All Philippine carriers have been removed from the European Union (EU)’s aviation blacklist, regulators recently announced. While most of the carriers have no immediate plans to expand routes into Europe, it does give them a leg up against regional competitors in Thailand and Indonesia.

“All airlines certified in the Philippines, banned since 2010, have been released from the list and are therefore allowed to operate in European airspace,” said the EU office in Brussels, in an official statement following the results of an airline safety audit conducted throughout April.

The EU’s decision to blacklist the Philippine carriers for the past five years came after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) designated them a “significant safety concern.” Authorities in Japan and South Korea followed suit by banning many of their flights as well.

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One exception to this was the country’s flagship carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), as it was removed from the list in 2013 and received Category 1 ranking from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) just last year. PAL had been stuck with Category 2 status for over six years. A ranking of Category 2 basically means a failure to meet minimum international safety and operation standards.

The airline has “invested billions of dollars in modern aircraft acquisitions, the latest innovations in flight deck automation and technology, safety enhancement and warning systems, as well as the very latest methodologies in flight crew training and evaluation programs,” PAL president and chief operating officer Jaime J. Bautista wrote in a statement earlier this year.

PAL has now expanded routes to include New York and London and will soon include additional European destinations. It seems likely that the airline could serve as a leader for easing ongoing safety concerns that many have for flying in the ASEAN region. Cebu Pacific, the largest budget carrier in the Philippines, is expanding routes as well, soon to add flights to Italy.

Many of the smaller carriers, such as Air Philippines, Skyjet, and Air Asia Philippines, probably won’t be adding long-haul flights anytime soon, but they can still benefit from this nationwide safety upgrade.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia all but four of the country’s carriers have remained on the EU blacklist since 2007. Aviation safety in the country has remained in Category 2 for seven years now. Gerry Soejatman, an aviation consultant based in Indonesia, feels that one of the issues there is lack of workers in the industry. “In Indonesia, we don’t have enough people. We only have 20–30 inspectors when we need 50,” Soejatman said.

Now, with the terrible military cargo plane crash which killed all on board on Tuesday, Indonesia’s reputation in air safety has taken yet another hit.

Thailand is also facing its share of troubles. The ICAO “red flagged” Thailand again in June for demonstrating aviation safety issues and/or possible mismanagement in addressing these. New safety inspections are being ordered for Thailand’s carriers, not just from the EU but also from various countries in East and Southeast Asia.

H/T: Bangkok Post