SOON, MORE FLIGHTS TO U.S. | FAA lifts Philippines to Category 1

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg hands over to CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss III the letter confirming the upgrade, from Margaret Giligan, associate administrator for aviation safety at the US-FAA. ERIC APOLONIO, INTERAKSYON.COM means BUSINESS

MANILA - (UPDATE2- 6:16 p.m.) The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has upgrade the Philippines back to Category 1, setting the stage for local carriers to mount more flights to the US. The Department of Foreign Affairs hailed the upgrade, saying it spelled the opening of more routes and greater business opportunities.

"Good news! Philippines compliance with international #aviation safety oversight standards earns Category 1 Safety Rating," US Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg said in his Twitter account.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) confirmed the FAA upgrade.

“This upgrade cements a landmark era in the Philippine aviation sector.  From one major achievement to another in a span of less than two years, the country has made great strides in enhancing its aviation industry to one that is at par with the best in the world,” Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said in a statement.

“We congratulate the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) for a job well done in censuring the lifting of the ICAO’s significant safety concerns, the lifting of the European ban on local airlines, and now, the FAA upgrade to Category 1. Truly, your accomplishments prove that good governance and competent leadership will be the legacy of President Aquino’s Daang Matuwid,” Abaya said.

He said the upgrade will open more direct flights to and from the US, boosting the Philippines' tourism industry, and improving trade relations between the two countries.

Among the benefits of the upgrade are the following:

  • Local carriers other than Philippine Airlines (PAL) can now fly to the US;
  • PAL can now use more fuel-efficient planes;
  • PAL can add new routes to and from the US; and
  • PAL can increase flight frequencies to and from the US

DFA sees more routes, business opportunities

The Department of Foreign Affairs welcomed the FAA announcement and predicted more routes opening for business and tourism travel between the Philippines and the US, and more opportunities for Philippine and American business.

“This is good news for the Philippines and for the Filipino people,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario said after he was informed by Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. of the rating upgrade.

“Our flag carriers can now push through with their plans to expand their operations and serve our people in various parts of the United States,” Del Rosario said as he commended the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) for addressing FAA’s concerns and the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. for working closely with the agency on the matter.

In his report to Del Rosario, Cuisia said the FAA restored the country’s Category 1 rating following an International Aviation Safety Assessment in March. The upgrade came six years after the Philippines was downgraded to Category 2 for failing to meet international aviation safety standards.

“Regaining Category 1 status has been one of our major economic diplomacy thrusts in the United States,” Ambassador Cuisia said. “With the Category 1 rating, we hope to see the expansion of flight routes in the US by Philippine air carriers.

“This means opening up more routes for business and tourism travel between the Philippines and the US as well as creating more opportunities for Philippine and American business,” he said.

The Embassy said the upgrade followed the meeting between Ambassador Cuisia and FAA Associate Administrator Margaret Giligan in early February, where the former underscored the Philippine Government’s commitment to aviation safety and sustainability as well as the efforts undertaken by the CAAP under the leadership of Director General William Hotchkiss to address FAA concerns.

Category 2 imposed in 2008

The FAA lowered the country’s safety rating to Category 2 in January 2008 upon the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which had found "significant concerns" over CAAP's ability to meet international safety standards.

A category 2 rating means a country either lacks laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards or that its civil aviation authority is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping or inspection procedures.

As a result of the downgrade, local carriers such as Philippine Airlines were barred from expanding their routes in the US as well as in taking part in reciprocal code-share arrangements with American carriers.

However, with the Category 1 rating, Philippine carriers may now initiate or continue to service the US in a normal manner and enter into code-share arrangements with American airlines.