PAL president asks government to shelve air talks with Gulf carriers (Business Mirror (Philippines))

THE Philippine government should learn from the bitter experience of the US airline industry-now facing an uphill battle against Middle Eastern carriers over the latter’s alleged unfair practices-the national flag carrier’s president said on Wednesday.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) President Jaime J. Bautista cautioned the Philippine air panel before it pursues the scheduled air-services talks with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), citing the current headwinds that US carriers are going through for opening up the western skies for more air traffic.

We hope our own government will promote fair competition and support our airlines who have invested much in reestablishing air links to the Middle East and Europe, he said.

The chief operating officer of the legacy carrier is echoing the sentiments of the US airline industry against the tactics of Middle Eastern carriers currently being investigated for unfair competition.

Washington is currently looking into allegations of unfair practices of carriers from the Middle East, which are currently being subsidized by their governments.

Estimates show that the subsidy Arab carriers get is now at about $42 billion.

This is being belied by Emirates, a gulf carrier, who noted that it has been open with regard to its financial performance over the years.

Middle Eastern carriers are being accused of terribly abusing the agreements, while getting massive subsidies from their governments. Hence, the lack of a level-playing field.

The Partnership for Open and Fair Skies Coalition-a group formed by United Airlines, Delta Airlines and American Airlines- asked the American government to put a temporary block on new US-bound services by Etihad Airways, Emirates and Qatar Airways.

Bautista said next week’s air talks with the Middle East should be shelved. After all, the allocations between the two nations are still enough for the market.

We call on the Philippine panel to the Philippines-UAE air talks to refrain from giving Middle Eastern carriers undue advantage by granting more capacity and frequency beyond what the market requires, he said.

Cebu Pacific Spokesman Paterno S. Mantaring Jr. earlier said the significant increase in capacity over the year is enough reason for the new round of air talks with the UAE to cease. Available Manila-use entitlements are not fully utilized by Philippine carriers.

But for Emirates, the negotiations for a more liberal open-skies policy is necessary to help the market grow. The carrier operates the Dubai-Manila route two times daily. It used to fly thrice, until the government decided to remove the allocation, as the right to operate the third service is allotted for Filipino carriers. Emirates claimed that since the removal of the third daily flight, its two daily flights on the Dubai-Manila route have been operating at 100-percent capacity in economy class on most of the flights-with no seats left for international tourists and overseas Filipino workers.

This represents a significant gap between supply and demand for seats. Taking this into consideration, we are confident that the restoration of Emirates’s third daily flight to Manila will ensure widespread and sustained benefits to all stakeholders, the carrier said.

Bautista said he could only hope that the Philippine government would safeguard the interests of Filipino air travelers against the negative effects of additional yet unwanted flights from the Middle East.