No more barriers: Cebu Pacific to fly to Europe, US
MANILA, Philippines – Budget airline Cebu Pacific of tycoon John Gokongwei Jr. is set to mount direct flights to the United States and Europe within the year.
This after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) removed the Philippines from its air safety blacklist, opening the door for local airlines to launch routes or expand services to the world's largest economy.
The European Union (EU) also lifted the ban keeping Cebu Pacific from flying to the union's 28 member-nations.
Cebu Pacific president Lance Gokongwei said they were "currently examining all our options to Europe" to cater to the estimated one million Filipinos working there.
He said they were looking at London, Paris and Amsterdam but there's "no definitive decision yet."
In the US, he said the company was looking at Hawaii and Guam.
Julian Vassallo, Chargé d'affaires at the Delegation of the EU to the Philippines, said the decision to lift the ban on Cebu Pacific was "unanimous."
"The decision… to lift the ban on Cebu Pacific shows the ability of Philippine authorities and business to work with the EU to raise standards and create economic opportunity," he said. "Having demonstrated their commitment and capacity to adhere to international standards, we heartily welcome Cebu Pacific to European skies."
The EU banned all Philippine carriers from flying to Europe in 2010, two years after the FAA downgraded the Philippines' aviation status.
The FAA put the Philippines on its Category 2 blacklist in 2008, saying the country had failed to comply with international safety standards.
It said it raised the Philippines' rating back to Category 1 following a March 2014 review, which found that the government now complies with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.
But even prior to the FAA review, ICAO had given the Philippines a passing mark in its March 2013 safety audit. ICAO's move was followed by the EU's decision to lift its ban on legacy carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) in July.
Cebu Pacific will be the second local airline to fly to the US and Europe. Currently, only PAL flies to both destinations.
PAL flies to Honolulu, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It launched its London route in November last year.
Vassallo said they would send another EU assessment mission to the Philippines later in the year.
"The EC is likely to mount another EU assessment mission to the Philippines later in the year to assess Philippine aviation as a whole including internal aviation with the prospect to lift the ban on Philippine aviation as a whole," he explained.
Transportation Secretary Joseph "Jun" Abaya lauded the developments in the industry, saying these make it "at par with the best in the world."
President Benigno Aquino III's spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the move would also boost the tourism industry. – Rappler.com, with a report from Agence France-Presse