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Diplomatic dispute brews; Kuwait and Philippines Airlines row rages

KUWAIT: An ongoing dispute between Kuwait and Philippines Airlines (PAL) over fifth freedom flights may reach diplomatic level with the airline announcing that it has called on the government in Manila to help resolve the issue. “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 reported by the Philippine news agency, The Standard.

The dispute comes only three months after PAL resumed flying the Kuwait-Manila route (via Dubai). The PAL launched a four times per week service in January despite a failure to resolve the fifth freedom rights issue. Fifth freedom rights essentially allow the airline to pick up passengers and cargo from the layover destination (in this case Dubai) to bring onward to the final destination. Essentially this would allow Philippines Airlines to provide transit flights from Kuwait to Dubai and vice versa.

The Kuwait government, however, has refused to grant the airline fifth freedom rights. The rights were originally granted under the Philippine-Kuwait Bilateral Air Services Agreement of 1977, as amended in April 1995 and February 2009. Kuwait Airways flights a Kuwait-Manila route via Bangkok and enjoys fifth freedom privileges from Bangkok to Manila and the return flight. Those rights, however, were suspended by the aviation authorities in Manila on March 27 in response to Kuwait’s denial of fifth freedom for PAL.

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