SkyJet Airlines resumed its flights last week, following a recent suspension, after it obtained a twenty day restraining order overturning the suspension issued by the Civil Aviation Authority [CAA] of the Philippines.
In a statement released by the Pasay Regional Trial Court, Judge Pedro Gutierrez concluded that the actions of the Civil Aviation Authority [CAA] were premature. "It is very clear that the May 15 suspension order was irregular, not valid and issued without due process of law. The suspension order was premature and was done without investigation and proper inspection of the aircraft of the plaintiff. Hence, violative of constitutional and economic rights of plaintiff and causing damages to the Airline company," stated the court.
According to SkyJet President Dino Reyes Chua, the decision by the court was a relief after the suspension order created a "nightmare" for the small independent carrier. "We really felt that our constitutional and economic rights were violated," said Chua. "We are doing this for the whole Aviation industry so that no other independent Airline operator could suffer these losses in the future. This is truly a nightmare for our company and to our thousands of affected passengers."
SkyJet officials revealed that nearly 3,000 passengers have been affected by the suspension. With the restraining order in place from the Pasay Regional Trial Court, SkyJet is now able to continue operating while the court case continues.
The carrier is also filing a P20 million damages claim against the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and its officials for the losses incurred as a result of the suspension order. CAAP issued the notice of suspension on May 18 after SkyJet failed the Aviation safety assessment conducted by the European Union Aviation Safety Team last month.
According to the European assessment, there were eight safety concerns regarding SkyJet's flight operations including flight data monitoring, maintenance control, airworthiness, and quality assurance. The CAA stated that the suspension may be lifted only "upon full compliance with the corrective actions undertaken to mitigate the safety concerns raised."
The CAA responded to the court decision with a statement of its own indicating that safety remains the priority for the national aviation regulator. "For CAAP, the safety of passengers and our airports and airspace is paramount," said the regulator. "The rules are simple."
SkyJet says that the suspension order cited an intensive investigation. However, the CAA failed to produce any investigative report. Airline officials believe that the suspension, which stranded thousands of passengers, was "abrupt and illegal" and that due process was not followed citing that no proper investigation was conducted. According to reports, the carrier attempted to reach out to the CAA to discuss the suspension but failed, resulting in the decision to seek relief from the appropriate court.
The carrier cited Section 71 of Republic Act 9497, which clearly states that, "Any suspension or revocation of Airline Operator's Certificate must be done with due process and the operator must be given a chance to reply." Under Section 71, carriers are also able to obtain injunctive relief from the proper court of jurisdiction as SkyJet did in this instance. However, the relief is too little and too late for the thousands of affected passengers.
"Aside from millions of losses that we are suffering, the most sad part here is the inconvenience of the almost 3,000 affected passengers stranded in the island destinations due to this illegal suspension," said Captain Ted Fojas, SkyJet COO. "The Airline seats serving our island tourist destinations are not enough. That's why even if we already refunded the money to our passengers, they still have to cancel their trip because all of the other flights are fully booked by now considering it's summer peak season and they can no longer be accommodated by any other carrier."
Flights resumed on May 24 following the suspension. SkyJet, which brands itself as Manila's Boutique Airline, flies regularly to the popular tourist destinations of Batanes, Busuanga, and Boracay. It also operates charter services to the resort destination of Balesin Island.
The carrier, which is owned by Solar Group, specialises in flights to island destinations with short runways that are not accessible with larger Aircraft. The shorter runways limit the number of Aircraft that can access the Airport. This provides SkyJet with a competitive advantage at airports such as Caticlan, where it provides the fastest flights from Manila being the only jet operator at the Airport.
SkyJet currently operates a fleet of one British Aerospace BAE-146 Aircraft and one Dornier 328.
Eesha Rohida [ MBA Mktg ]
Aviation News Editor