Philippine Airlines asked the Foreign Affairs Department to help resolve a dispute with the Kuwaiti government over fifth freedom flights.
“We respectfully request for the support and assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs in taking the appropriate measures and initiatives that would help PAL secure the needed Kuwaiti authorization for our Dubai-Kuwait fifth freedom rights, including diplomatic protests and special representations with the government of the State of Kuwait, as may be warranted,” PAL president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista said in a letter to Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Rene Almendras.
Bautista’s letter to the Foreign Affairs Department came after Kuwait’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation prevented PAL from exercising its right as a Philippine-designated carrier to avail of fifth freedom traffic rights.
Fifth freedom is the freedom to pick up passengers and cargo from a foreign country and carry them to a second country, which is the final destination.
The rights are granted under the Philippine-Kuwait Bilateral Air Services Agreement of 1977, as amended in April 1995 and February 2009.
PAL launched a four-times weekly service between Manila and Kuwait (via Dubai) on Jan. 17 this year to serve the flight needs of Filipinos in that state, using a 414-seater Airbus A330 every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The DGCA, however, only authorized PAL to carry passengers and cargo traveling solely between the Philippines and either Kuwait or Dubai.
“The Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s disapproval undermines the principle of reciprocity in availing the grant of aviation rights and the commitment to ensure a level – playing field among parties in the ASA [air services agreement],” Bautista said.
“It is unfortunate that the government of the state of Kuwait, through its Directorate General of Civil Aviation has disallowed PAL from carrying ‘fifth freedom’ passenger and cargo traffic between Dubai and Kuwait. Ironically, Kuwait Airways had been freely availing of fifth freedom traffic rights between Bangkok and Manila for close to 20 years,” he said.
The Philippines’ Civil Aeronautics Board suspended Kuwait Airways’ Bangkok-Manila fifth freedom privileges effective March 27 to address the imbalance.
The CAB, however, permitted Kuwait Airways to increase its flights to Manila from six to eight weekly, a move which PAL also vehemently opposed.
“We intend to exhaust all available avenues to resolve this issue. We urge the CAB to reconsider any grant of additional rights to Kuwait Airlines, until and unless PAL is granted its basic air rights as allowed under existing agreements,” PAL senior vice [resident and general counsel Siegfried Mison said.
The flag carrier is urging immediate resolution that will ensure equal opportunity for designated airlines and uphold the integrity of sovereign bilateral agreements.