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EU lifts safety ban on all Philippine airlines

[MANILA] Philippine airlines will no longer be banned from flying into Europe, aviation authorities said Thursday, after the European Union removed all remaining Philippine carriers from its safety blacklist.

The EU list, which has included Philippine airlines since 2010, bars from operating in European airspace any airlines it deems unable to meet international safety standards, or whose civil aviation authorities cannot provide the necessary safety oversight.

"All airlines from the Philippines, banned since 2010, have been released from the (air safety) list and are therefore allowed to operate in the European airspace," a statement from the EU office in Brussels said.

The EU lifted the safety ban on flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) in July 2013, and last year also released Cebu Pacific, the country's largest airline.

The latest decision lifts restrictions on the seven remaining Philippine carriers, said Eric Apolonio, a spokesman for the Philippine civil aviation authority, now allowing budget and smaller airlines to fly to Europe.

Among the seven carriers are the Philippine units of AirAsia Berhad, the pioneer of budget flights in Asia, the aviation authority said.

The decision comes after a five-man EU safety assessment team gave a positive review of the airlines following a series of inspections in April.

"This is truly breaking news since it is the first time that the entire aviation sector of one country is removed from the European Air Safety List," said Lubomir Frebort, the EU charge d'affaires in the Philippines.

While the seven carriers largely service only domestic and Asian routes, Apolonio said the EU decision will still benefit them.

Previously, European insurance companies would not cover people who flew on airlines on the EU Air Safety List, he said.

"European tourists will be encouraged to use low-cost carriers in the Philippines now," boosting the number of visitors who will want to fly around the archipelago, he told AFP.

PAL now flies to London and is planning to add more European destinations, while Cebu Pacific is applying to fly to Italy.

AFP