Thu, Jul 03, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Philippines refuses local plane's use of its airspace


A charter flight operated by TransAsia Airways to the Malaysian state of Sabah was delayed for hours yesterday after the Philippines refused to allow it to fly in its airspace, officials said.

After TransAsia was granted permission to use Vietnamese skies, the aircraft was ready to take off at 1pm, but it was then discovered that an engine had broken down from overheating, the officials said.

The 194 angry passengers were forced to wait for at least seven hours at the CKS International Airport before boarding another aircraft at about 4pm.

The Philippine aviation authorities only notified TransAsia yesterday morning that the overflight was not allowed, saying the airline owed them some US$8,000, dating back to 1990.

However, TransAsia officials said a "communication problem" was responsible for the bungle, insisting no outstanding bills had been left unpaid.

"It would be very ridiculous if this had been the reason, as we have flown over 100 flights on this route," a TransAsia official said.

TransAsia had operated two charter flights per week to Sabah using airspace over the Philippines from 1999 to last January, she said.

Yesterday's flight was the first after the service was restored following the five-month suspension.

TransAsia Airways has scheduled 17 charter flights to Sabah from yesterday up to Sept. 4 and filed an application with Manila 12 days ahead of the first flight, the period required for clearance, officials said.

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