FLAG carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) has sought the intervention of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on its squabble with Dubai and Kuwait after the latter blocked PAL’s commercial and cargo operations in those destinations.
PAL scored the government of the State of Kuwait for disallowing the carriage of passengers and cargo between Dubai and Kuwait despite the existence of an air services agreement allowing such “fifth freedom” flying rights, PAL said in a statement Wednesday.
Supposedly, under fifth freedom privileges, PAL should be able to ferry passengers and cargo to and from Kuwait and Dubai.
Earlier this year, the flag carrier launched flights between Manila and Kuwait via Dubai, utilizing a 414-seater Airbus A330 every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
However, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) of Kuwait only authorized PAL to carry passengers and cargo traveling solely between the Philippines and either Kuwait or Dubai.
In effect, PAL said the Kuwaiti government has prevented PAL from exercising its rights as a designated carrier to avail of fifth freedom traffic rights.
The said rights are granted under the Philippine – Kuwait Bilateral Air Services Agreement of 1977, as amended in April 1995 and February 2009.
In a letter to Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, PAL president and chief operating officer Jaime J. Bautista urged the DFA to intervene on the issue through diplomatic means.
“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 stressed.
“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.
“It is unfortunate that the Government of the State of Kuwait, through its Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), 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.
In response to the Kuwaiti move, the Philippines’ Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) suspended Kuwait Airways’ Bangkok-Manila fifth freedom privileges effective March 27, 2016. However, the CAB permitted Kuwait Airways to increase its flights to Manila from six to eight weekly, a move which PAL likewise vehemently opposes.
Atty. Siegfred Mison, PAL senior vice president legal and general counsel said, “We intend 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.”