It seems that after the buy in of 40 percent of the airline by Air Asia Philippines, Zest Air lost its zest for aviation safety. The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) suspended the Air Operator Certificate of Zest Air effective 16 August 2013 due to numerous safety violations committed by said airline. The suspension stays until all violations are corrected and the airline passes necessary audits.
Zest Air operates in at least 20 local destinations and several cities in Korea, Malaysia, and China out of Manila and Clark while Air Asia Philippines operates out of Clark and flies to six international and two local destinations and is owned by juice magnate and ambassador Alfredo M. Yao.
Air Asia Malaysia Berhad, Maan Hontiveros, Michael Romero, and Antonio Cojuangco own Air Asia Philippines.
In a letter to Ambassador Yao, Zest Airways, Inc. Chairman, dated August 16, CAAP Officer-in-Charge and Deputy Director General Captain John C. Andrew cited the “continuing violations” by Zest Air on the safety standards set by the Philippine Civil Aviation Regulations (PCARs).
CAAP cited that the airline has no accountable manager since July 19. Per PCAR, each airline shall have an accountable manager who has the corporate authority to ensure that all flight operations and maintenance activities can be financed and carried out to the highest degree of safety standards.
CAAP also cited the failure of Zest Air to check aircraft logs, flight manifests, weather logs, and even to replace a missing fuel coupling cap that eventually led to “Aircraft On Ground” status. Also cited is the failure to present aircraft mechanic license of its ramp crews.
The CAAP report also mentioned of at least four flights with technical issues such as failed hydraulic system (twice in Kalibo), fuel overflow (twice in Kalibo), and missing coupling cap and defective servo actuator (in Tagbilaran).
If these are not enough safety risks, the airline was also cited for refueling aircraft RP-C8989 while passengers were on board. Such action committed last August 14 is non-conformance to PCAR provisions.
Capping the report is that several pilots of Zest Air have exceeded the 100 hours flight time limit per month due to increase in the number of flights and shortage of flight crew. Pilot exceeded their flight hours limitations because the airline lacks the procedures to monitor the Flight Time Limit and procedure to report the Pilot Trip Reports.
The Philippines, through CAAP, is working to get upgraded by the US Federal Aviation Authority (US FAA) back to Category 1 status following the decision of the European Union to remove the Philippines from its aviation safety blacklist.