Philippine Airlines (PAL) will open services to New York, Chicago, Florida and other major cities in the United States within a year following the removal of the Philippines from the air safety blacklist of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday.
Other Philippine carriers may now also fly to the United States with the restoration of the country's Category 1 rating. US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg announced Thursday the FAA's restoration of the Philippines to Category 1 rating on Twitter.
"Good news! Philippines compliance with international aviation safety oversight standards earns Category 1 Safety Rating," Goldberg said.
PAL hailed the FAA decision, which will enable the flag carrier to resume services on its Manila-New York route and expand to other destinations in the United States.
"Your flag carrier welcomes the return of the country's aviation rating to Category 1," PAL president and CEO Ramon Ang said.
"This is a culmination of the government's hard work, as exemplified by the efforts of the Civil Aviation Authority of the
Philippines (CAAP) to upgrade the country's international aviation safety standards," he said.
"With the upgrade, the Philippines now rejoins the ranks of the most important aviation nations in the world, made up of select countries that meet the [United States'] strict standards of aviation safety," Ang said.
Although widely expected, Thursday's FAA decision came as a surprise, as it had been expected to be announced by US President Barack Obama during his visit to the Philippines later this month.
The FAA decision, based on a March review of the CAAP, came after the European Union in July 2013 lifted its own ban on Philippine Airlines after they upgraded their aviation safety standards.
Ang said PAL was ready with an expansion plan for its US services following the upgrade.
He said PAL would open services to New York, Chicago, Florida and other cities on the US East Coast within a year.
PAL used to fly to New York, operating services there from 1996 to 1997. It stopped the services due to financial constraints and as
the Asian financial crisis forced businesses to review aggressive expansion plans.
The airline stopped flights to Europe a year later.
Meeting int'l standards
Category 1 rating means the CAAP complies with safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a United Nations agency that lays down international standards and recommended aviation practices, including aircraft operation and maintenance, the US Embassy in Manila said.
The FAA downgraded the Philippines to Category 2 rating in January 2008 for failure to meet international safety standards. 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-equivalent to the FAA for aviation safety matters-is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record keeping or inspection procedures," the embassy said.
The 2008 downgrade of the Philippines to Category 2 status due to US concerns over the quality of Philippine aviation standards froze the local aviation industry in a status quo, preventing Philippine carriers from expanding their US operations or even replacing their gas-guzzling aircraft with newer and fuel-efficient airplanes.
Thursday's reinstatement to Category 1 rating will not only allow Philippine airlines to add more flights between the Philippines and the United States, but also replace older aircraft with more fuel-efficient planes and, subject to bilateral negotiations, open up routes to new destinations like the US East Coast.