PHILIPPINE carriers are protesting the grant by the Philippine Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) of a further 30-day extension allowing Emirates to continue operating seven weekly flights on the Dubai-Manila-Dubai routes in excess of its maximum entitlement under the existing Philippines-United Arab Emirates bilateral air agreement.
On October 14, despite strong objections from the Philippine carriers, the CAB granted Emirates a period of 30 days counted from October 27, 2014 to November 26, 2014 to operate additional seven frequencies, presumably by virtue of its authority to grant extra frequencies to any foreign carrier for a period of not more than 30 days.
So, far the CAB has granted a total of 60 days in favor of Emirates or until December 26, 2014.
Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, PAL Express and Tiger Airways Philippines believe that the CAB has no authority to grant extra frequencies in Manila under Section 3 of Executive Order No. 29.
They believe that the issuance of the extended grant to operate additional seven flights only worsens the current situation, as Emirates had long been selling seats on these flights without prior CAB approval as required by Republic Act 776 (An act, to reorganize the Civil Aeronautics Board and the Civil Aeronautics Administration).
In fact, Emirates’ has been selling flights until October 2015 which is beyond the CAB’s extended deadline, the local carriers said.
This constitutes a blatant disregard of the CAB’s authority, they said, and asked the CAB to “take immediate and necessary action to cause this foreign carrier to cease and desist its defiance of the Philippine Government, in the interest of fair competition and the growth of the Philippine aviation industry.”
“We strongly oppose the grant of this extended permit to Emirates’ extra frequencies, because of the following reasons: PAL, Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines are capable of immediately mounting direct flights to the United Arab Emirates. Indeed we are operating these flights to Dubai and Abu Dhabi today,” the local carriers said.
“We look to the CAB to work with the Philippine air carriers in growing the Philippine aviation industry and to allow us to compete with foreign carriers on a level playing field. We believe that the grant of these unwarranted extra flights to Middle Eastern carriers distorts competition and undermines the investments of Philippine air carriers in building a truly competitive air route to the UAE.
“Hence, if Philippine carriers are allowed to mount only 28 frequencies at this stage of competition, then the UAE carriers, including Emirates, should not be allowed to operate more than 28 frequencies even for a temporary period.”
“As good citizens of the aviation world, Philippine carriers play by the rules. We adhere to the limits set by bilateral aviation agreements; we sell and operate flights only when we have the necessary approvals and regulatory clearances to do so.
“Middle Eastern carriers sidestep prohibitions against directly flying passengers between the Philippines and foreign countries by making short connecting stops through their home hub airports. Allowing Emirates excess flights would encourage this practice to the detriment of Philippine carriers operating the same routes.
“Executive Order 29 allows foreign carriers to operate unlimited flights to Clark, Cebu and other airports in the Philippines, and this is affirmed by the Philippines-UAE bilateral agreement. If Emirates truly wants to expand its service into the Philippines, it has every opportunity to put up new flights to Clark, Cebu or other Philippine international airports outside of Manila,” they said.
The local carriers reiterated that they have been a major driver of tourism growth in the country.
“The Philippine carriers’ direct flights to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have widened passengers’ choices and made air fares more affordable to better serve overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and promote tourist travel between the Middle East and the Philippines,” they said.
“We believe the push to increase tourism and improve services can be achieved by allowing Philippine carriers and foreign carriers equal access to traffic rights. We do not believe it is fair to extend unnecessary favors to Middle Eastern carriers whose main objective is to build major hubs in the UAE rather than develop the Philippines as a ‘hub.’ “
“We are not asking for special favors, just a level playing field. If the benefits of air services liberalization are granted in favor of foreign carriers, then we are discriminated against in our own country,” they said.