CAAP suspends Zest Air for safety violations
The regulator says the Yao-led airline's license is suspended until it undertakes corrective actions and complies with aviation safety standards

UNDER SURVEILLANCE. The aviation regulator closely monitors Zest Air operations following several cancelled flights. AFP Photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Low-cost carrier Zest Air’s license was suspended Friday, August 16 for several violations of safety regulations.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) informed Zest Air it suspended its Air Operator Certificate in a letter Friday.

“This agency is alarmed of Zest Air’s series of serious deviations and infractions of the rules and standards prescribed under the Philippine Civil Aviation Regulations (PCAR),” read the letter signed by CAAP deputy general John Andrews. The letter was addressed to juice magnate and Zest Air chairman Alfredo Yao.

“[Your airline is] hereby precluded to engage in air carrier operations, which shall take effect upon receipt of this notice/letter and shall remain in effect until this Authority is assured that the necessary corrective actions and compliance with aviation safety standards [have] been undertaken by your airline,” Andrews said.

He also said that upon receipt of the letter, only Zest Air flights bound for Manila would be allowed to fly. All Zest Air flights would be terminated after.

Andrews said Zest Air violated, among others, Subsection (a) of PCAR, which states that: “Each operator shall have an accountable manager… who has corporate authority for ensuring that all flight operations and maintenance activities can be financed and carried out to the highest degree of safety standards.”

The other violations were:

  • Failure to check aircraft bags, flight manifest, weather, etc.
  • Failure to present an airman license during ramp inspection 
  • Series of occurrences like fuel overflow that affected several flight operations
  • Refueling with passengers on board
  • Excessive flight duty time of pilots

The violations were committed within the period January 2012 to August 2013.

Under surveillance

On August 2, CAAP placed Zest Air under “heightened” surveillance following a series of flight cancellations brought about by mechanical problems.

Zest Air cancelled 8 flights on August 1, and 9 on August 2 due to “aircraft situation.” In July, the carrier cancelled a total of 33 flights, mostly in Kalibo.

Zest Air has a fleet of 10 Airbus A320s and one A319 flying to 9 domestic and 5 international destinations via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport as well as hubs in Kalibo and Cebu.

The airline flies to Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Kalibo, Puerto Princesa, Tacloban, and Tagbilaran. Its overseas destinations include Shanghai, Jinjiang, Incheon, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuala Lumpur.

In May, Yao entered into a deal with Philippines’ AirAsia Inc., unit of AirAsia Berhad of Malaysia, giving the latter 85% economic interest and 49% voting interest in Zest Air as well as 100% interest in Asiawide Airways Inc.

In exchange, Yao got $16 million and 13% interest in PH AirAsia, which operates out of the Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

Zest Air’s suspension comes amid efforts by regulators to enhance local aviation safety standards.

The Philippines is working to get upgraded by the US Federal Aviation Authority (US FAA) back to Category 1 status. CAAP said this is the next goal following the decision of the European Union to remove the Philippines from its aviation safety blacklist.

The US FAA upgrade is needed before local carriers can mount additional flights to the US. –