June 26, 2008

Inefficiencies in civil aviation regulations

Whew! Airline insurer back

FLAG carrier Asian Spirit is once more insured by Prudential Guarantee and Assurance Inc., this after the airline revoked its appointment of an insurance broker and committed to settle the carrier’s premiums Wednesday, June 25.

In a letter addressed to Lucio Fernandez, vice president for aviation and marine of Prudential Guarantee, dated June 23, 2008, and received by Prudential at 7:23 p.m., Asian Spirit chief finance officer Albert Toribio said: “After a careful evaluation of the situation, I have decided to revoke the appointment I made in favor of Empire Insurance Co., as exclusive broker of record.

“I hope this letter will set the record straight that we have never rescinded the existing insurance covering our aircraft with your company. It is our desire to continue to preserve our harmonious relationship.”

In his letter, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror, Toribio added: “As regards to our premium payment for the 2nd Quarter, we will make remittances by Wednesday.” (Read the rest here.)

Click this to read the letter: File0303.PDF

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I used to love riding Asian Spirit.

Despite the minor irritants like sales agents eating instant mami while serving passengers buying tickets at the Express ticketing office or slight confusions in our bookings, its flights were hardly delayed, except for one or two incidents I know of. A friend of mine waited hours in the Caticlan airport on her way back to Manila, but airline personnel never even bothered to announce the flight delay. But I loved the jet service to Caticlan which was the fastest among other carriers serving the same route from Manila.

In all my years riding the airline and writing about the aviation industry, not once did Asian Spirit, to my knowledge, miss out on paying its insurer, nor flown its planes without being covered by an insurance policy. The old management also made sure that, so there would be no problems in case of accidents, their planes were all insured to about $500,000 per quarter.

So it comes to my surprise that the carrier, now under new management, was brazen enough to fly without insurance coverage from June 19-23, 2008, and the situation would have continued, if only we didn't find them out. Imagine if anything happened last week? Who would pay for the damages or claims of the victims? Ang scary naman ha!

(Amb. Fred Yao, fruit juice king, banker, and now Asian Spirit owner.)

What's even more irritating is talking to airline officials who are obviously lying and make it appear that all is well. To ascribe everything to just a case of "misunderstanding" is too simplistic. Airline officials had to wait for five days before rectifying the said "misunderstanding". And thanks to its owner, Ambassador Alfredo Yao, the problem was settled. Imagine having your company owner come to your rescue because of your stupidity? Duh.

Then you have the clueless and lax monitoring system of the Civil Aeronautics Board.

When I asked CAB, why despite the expired insurance contract filed with them for Asian Spirit (Feb. 07-08), the agency didn't have a new one on file, the person-in-charge I spoke to said the airline had until June 30 to submit reportorial requirements including new contracts. So for all we know, the carrier had been flying without any insurance since March 1, 2008! I mean how would the CAB know that our airlines are all covered by insurance policies if it doesn't ask for those contracts? Sheer faith?

Oh c'mon! When we have lives and properties at stake, you make sure you have proof that the airlines are in fact, insured! How dare the CAB toy with the lives of the flying public?!

Amid the tragedy of Sulpicio Lines and what appears to be some negligence on the part of the Coast Guard, now arises questions on just how strict are our regulatory bodies in the air transport sector.

If you remember, our country has already been deemed a flight risk by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority, which downgraded our airports to Category 2, because of insufficient air transport personnel, inefficient monitoring systems, and lack of proper regulations and implementation. No wonder. These agencies can't even be trusted to make sure our airlines fly with insurance!

So is CAB going to fine Asian Spirit for flying without insurance for five days? You know the answer kids. And I'm not liking it all!

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