Cebu Pacific eyes flights to Canada

MANILA, Philippines – Budget airline Cebu Pacific is competing with legacy carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) for flights to Canada, according to documents from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB).

Last May 29, the Philippines and Canada signed a deal doubling the number of flights between the two countries in a bid to boost tourism and investments.

Gokongwei-led Cebu Pacific is looking at flying 7 times a week to Canada to add to its long-haul routes.

Legacy carrier PAL, jointly owned by tycoon Lucio Tan and San Miguel Corporation, earlier applied for additional 7 weekly flights to Canada that if approved, would double its frequency. It now flies to Vancouver and Toronto 7 times per week.

The new air service agreement between the Philippines and Canada increased the frequency entitlement for each country to 14 flights a week from 7. Both countries also agreed to boost fifth freedom rights to 5 flights per week from 4.

Fifth freedom rights allow airlines to fly passengers to a country where it has an existing air service agreement before proceeding to a third destination.

The Philippines has so far signed new air deals with France, Singapore, New Zealand, Myanmar, and Canada.

Last year, the Philippines signed air agreements with Japan, Macau, Brazil, Australia, Israel, and Italy.

The Aquino administration is pursuing air talks as part of its open skies policy, to help the country meet its target of attracting 10 million tourists by 2016.

Cebu Pacific is eyeing flights to the United States after the US Federal Aviation Administration upgraded the safety rating of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines back to Category 1 last April.

It also wants to fly to Europe following the lifting of the European Union ban.

Both Cebu Pacific and PAL are undergoing refleeting programs in line with plans to launch new routes.

Cebu Pacific is acquiring nearly 50 aircraft, while PAL is buying 100.

RIVAL carriers Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific are battling for additional flight frequencies to Canada following the conclusion of bilateral air-services talks last month.

In separate regulatory filings to the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), the two airlines said they are seeking to corner the seven new frequencies added to the flight allocations to the North American country.

Civil aviation regulators from both the Philippines and Canada in May signed a new air-services agreement, doubling air traffic rights between the two nations.

The new agreement increased the frequency entitlement for each side from seven flights a week to 14. Fifth freedom rights—which refer to the right to carry passengers from a carrier’s own country to a second nation, and from that state to a third—was also increased from four to five per week. Cebu Pacific is also keen on the Canadian market.

“We will certainly want to be competitive in terms of allocations with other carriers, incumbent of otherwise. So yes, we are very keen on flying to Canada,” Cebu Pacific Spokesman Jorenz T. Tañada said.

PAL, meanwhile, currently utilizes all seven frequencies previously allotted by both countries. It wants to get hold of all the new entitlements.

Both petitions are set to be heard on June 24 at the air-services regulator’s headquarters in Pasay City.

Filipino civil aviation officials have successfully concluded air-services talks with five nations this year, yielding additional flights that would facilitate richer trade and improve tourism.

The government aims to generate $4.6 billion in tourism revenues by the end of the Aquino administration. It also aims to attract 6 million tourists and create 3 million jobs by 2016. This would allow the sector to contribute 6.35 percent to the country’s gross domestic product.

Roughly 4.68 million tourists visited the country last year, a 9.56-percent increase from the 2012 count.