PAL seeks DFA's help on squabble with Kuwaiti government
MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Airlines, Incorporated (PAL) sought the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to resolve disagreements with the Kuwaiti government after it blocked the airline's plan to open a route to Kuwait via Dubai.
The disagreement between PAL and the Kuwaiti government has to do with the so-called "5th freedom rights" that both countries enjoy under a bilateral agreement.
These rights give airlines the right to pick up passengers and cargo from a foreign country and carry them to a second country, which is the final destination.
The flag carrier launched a 4 times weekly service between Manila and Kuwait (via Dubai) last January 17, using a 414-seater Airbus A330.
But Kuwait's Directorate General of Civil Aviation only authorized PAL to carry passengers and cargo traveling between the Philippines and either Kuwait or Dubai.
Through this, PAL said the Kuwaiti government has prevented it from exercising its right as a Philippine-designated carrier to avail of 5th freedom traffic rights.
"The said rights are clearly granted under the Philippine-Kuwait Bilateral Air Services Agreement of 1977, as amended in April 1995 and February 2009," PAL said in a statement.
DFA intervention asked
In an official letter addressed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, PAL president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista asked the DFA to intervene through diplomatic means. (READ: Cheaper air fares in ASEAN as PH signs protocols)
"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 5th freedom rights, including diplomatic protests and special representations with the Government of the State of Kuwait, as may be warranted," Bautista said.
"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.
The PAL chief said it is "unfortunate" that the Kuwaiti government has disallowed the airline from exercising its 5th freedom rights.
"Ironically, Kuwait Airways had been freely availing of 5th freedom traffic rights between Bangkok and Manila for close to 20 years," Bautista pointed out in his letter to the DFA.
To address the imbalance, the Philippines' Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) suspended Kuwait Airways' Bangkok-Manila 5th freedom privileges effective last March 27.
The Philippine air regulators, however, permitted Kuwait Airways to increase its flights to Manila from 6 to 8 weekly – a move PAL vehemently opposes.
PAL legal and general counsel Siegfred Mison said the airline intends to exhaust all available avenues to resolve the 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," Mison said.
The flag carrier called for an immediate resolution to the issue to ensure equal opportunity for designated airlines and uphold the integrity of sovereign bilateral agreements. – Rappler.com