The Philippines' Perilous Open Skies

A slew of new carriers is fighting to survive in a brutal climate

Lance Y. Gokongwei knew his family was taking a risk when it launched Cebu Pacific Air two years ago. "Setting up an airline seems to be the fastest way of going from a billionaire to a millionaire," says Gokongwei, the startup's president and CEO. But he did not foresee how tragically dangerous the business could be. Gokongwei, a 31-year-old graduate of the Wharton School and son of local taipan John G. Gokongwei, is dealing with the aftermath of a Feb. 2 crash of a Cebu Pacific DC-9 that killed 104. The government halted Cebu flights for two months; service just resumed.

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