Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Explosives Detected at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 is now on full security alert after a bomb was found inside a car parked at Parking Lot B inside the airport complex in the early morning of September 1, 2014. 

Image Source: Wikimedia
Six to eight improvised explosives were discovered inside a dirty-white Revo AUV with plate number WMK 129. Three suspects were arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation's (NBI) Anti-Organized and Transnational Crime Division (NBI-AOTCD) and the NBI's Counter-Terrorism Division (NBI-CTD) as the suspects were being assembled. The arresting officers also seized firearms from the suspects. The NBI had received a tip about a potential attack last month prior to being informed that the suspects were in the NAIA premises on Sunday night. The Philippine National Police (PNP) said that NBI operatives followed the vehicle the suspects were in all the way to NAIA at 1am. The NBI also uncovered a manifesto that highlighted other targets such as the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, the DMCI Main Office, and the Chinese Embassy.  

The motives were later traced to a group that was dismayed by the Philippine government's handling of the country's territorial disputes with the People's Republic of China. One of the suspects denied that they would bomb NAIA itself.  Instead, the suspect stated that they were targeting offices and establishments operated by Chinese officials.  

Although there have been no disruptions to flight operations and the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has yet to release an official statement regarding the incident, it has increased the presence of plain clothes and uniformed airport security personnel at the entrance of the airport, and ordered the deployment of K-9 units.

Image Source: NBC News
The enhanced security measures are aimed at detecting possible explosive devices that may be carried inside the airport complex. An emergency meeting was also called by the Manila International Airport Authority together with the Philippine National Police (including representatives from the Pasay and ParaƱaque police divisions), the Aviation Security Group, and the Office for Transportation Security (OTS).

Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said that the alert level in airports across the country has been heightened.  Consequently, airports in other parts of the country have also been tightened. For instance, reports surfaced that the Mactan Cebu International Airport has ordered that passengers remove their shoes at the check in desks and security staff have become stricter in screening larger pieces of baggage. Aviation authorities stated that passengers who refuse to undergo a security search could be refused boarding.

Singapore Airlines Transfers to NAIA Terminal 3

Singapore Airlines made the transfer from Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 to the more modern Terminal 3 on September 1st. All four flights operated by the Singaporean carrier between Manila and Singapore now arrive and depart from NAIA Terminal 3.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Although the carrier has shifted terminals at Ninoy Aquino Airport, the airline says that the previously scheduled arrivals and departures remain the same. Singapore Airlines recently released a notice to all passengers advising that the carrier's new check-in counters at Terminal 3 are located in Row B1-9. Counters are opened three hours prior to departure and close forty minutes before the flight's scheduled departure.

As a result of the move, Business Class passengers and frequent flyers will no longer be able to access the SilverKris Lounge located at Terminal 1, which has now been closed. Singapore Airlines is presently constructing a new SilverKris Lounge in Terminal 3, which is scheduled for completion in early 2015. In the mean time, passengers that are eligible for lounge access may visit Lounge One Fourteen, located on Level 3 inside Terminal 3 at Gate 114.

Copyright Photo: John Verdera/PPSG
To celebrate the transfer to Terminal 3, Singapore Airlines offered a promotional fare for passengers travelling between Manila and Singapore between September 1 to 7. The promotional fare featured discounts of more than fifty percent off the lowest regular fare. However, a minimum of three passengers were required, among other restrictions and requirements.

Singapore Airlines presently operates four daily flights between Singapore and Manila using a combination of Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 aircraft. The airline was most recently ranked the third best carrier in the world at the 2014 World Airline Awards sponsored by Skytrax.

Copyright Photo: John Verdera/PPSG
With Singapore Airlines moving its operations to terminal 3, the carrier joins three other foreign carriers including Delta Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and Emirates that have already shifted their operations to the recently completed terminal. This is part of a larger move by the Manila International Airport Authority to decongest the ageing Terminal 1. 

Singapore Airlines also joins Star Alliance partner All Nippon Airways, which was the first foreign carrier to use facility. Cathay Pacific will be the last of the first five carriers expected to transfer to Teminal 3 this year. However, no official date for the transfer has been publicly announced by the airline or airport authorities.

Although the transfer to Terminal 3 may have went smoothly for Singapore Airlines, operations at the airport terminal on September 1st were anything but smooth as airport authorities discovered a vehicle loaded with an undetermined number of explosives in a parking lot at the terminal. At least four suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident.

Philippine Airlines Returning to New York in March 2015, Expands Toronto Flights

Flying home for Filipinos on the east coast of the United States is about to get much easier. According to the latest airline timetables, Philippine Airlines is set to return to New York City after a seventeen year absence in March 2015, when it launches flights from Manila to "The Big Apple" via Vancouver, Canada.

Copyright Photo: Kenny Li/PPSG
Flights to New York will officially begin on March 15, 2015 operated by an Airbus A340-300 aircraft. In launching the new service, Philippine Airlines will take advantage of the expanded Air Services Agreement between Canada and the Philippines, which now allows Philippine carriers to fly up to 14 weekly flights between the two countries.

Flight PR126 will depart Manila at 11:50pm and arrive in Vancouver at 8:50pm. The flight will then continue on to New York, departing Vancouver at 10:50pm and landing at New York's John F Kennedy International Airport at 7:00am the following day. Philippine Airlines's flights to New York via Vancouver will depart every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.

The return flight, PR127, will depart New York at 11:00am and arrive back in Vancouver at 1:50pm.  The flight continues on to the Philippines, departing Vancouver at 3:20pm and arriving back in Manila at 8:30pm the following day.  

The restoration of the New York flight marks yet another milestone in Philippine Airlines' history as it will be the first time the flag carrier has flown to the east coast of the United States since it exited receivership. Philippine Airlines last flew to New York's Newark Liberty Airport in 1997. The airline was originally forced to cancel the service due to the Asian Financial Crisis.  


Philippine Airlines will not be the first carrier to operate direct service between Manila and New York's JFK Airport in recent years. Delta Airlines has been flying between the two cities under flight numbers DL172 and DL173 since 2010. Unlike the Philippine Airlines flight, the Delta flight makes a stopover at Delta's Tokyo Narita hub, rather than in Vancouver.  However, as Delta is set to realign its Asia-Pacific services in October 2014, the Atlanta-based carrier will be assigning a different flight number to its Manila services, meaning that future flights to and from Manila via Tokyo Narita will arrive and depart from a different city in the United States.  


By the time the New York flight launches in March 2015, Philippine Airlines will become the second Southeast Asian carrier to have an active service to the city after Singapore Airlines. However, it remains to be seen if Philippine Airlines will be able to successfully sustain service to the city in spite of the sizeable overseas Filipino population on the US east coast. History suggests that southeast Asian carriers have had mixed luck flying to New York City over the course of the past decade.  

Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways International used to operate ultra long-haul non-stop flights from their respective hubs in Singapore and Bangkok to New York in 2004 and 2005. However, due to rising operating costs, Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines were forced to discontinue their non-stop flights in 2008 and 2013. Singapore Airlines continues to fly to New York on a daily basis. However, it is now solely served on a one-stop basis via Frankfurt. Malaysia Airlines also used to fly to New York via Stockholm. However, that service was also discontinued in 2009.  

Meanwhile, a different story has unfolded for Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific, whose flights between Hong Kong and New York's JFK Airport are considered ultra long-haul. The carrier has successfully grown from having just one non-stop flight between the two financial centres in 2004 to four daily non-stop flights between the two cities. This includes one daily flight to New York's Newark Liberty Airport. All four non-stop services operated by Cathay Pacific to New York are in addition to a fifth flight that operates via Vancouver.

Assuming that Philippine Airlines will be using its fifth freedom rights to also sell tickets to passengers travelling between Vancouver and New York, the carrier will compete directly with Cathay Pacific, which also sells tickets between the two cities, and Delta Airlines that operates service on a seasonal basis. Cathay Pacific has a long established product in the Vancouver market, operating flights with its four-class Boeing 777-300ER aircraft featuring the carrier's new premium economy class and a wide array of personal in-flight entertainment including audio-video on demand across all classes. Philippine Airlines will be launching its new New York service with ex-Iberia A340-300 aircraft featuring Business and Economy Class. The aircraft is equipped with mainscreen entertainment, rather than personal television screens with audio-video on demand. Under the current flight schedules, Philippine Airlines and Cathay Pacific will depart Vancouver for New York at almost the same time. 


Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines will be expanding its service to Toronto adding a fourth weekly flight via Vancouver as it simultaneously launches flights to New York. Beginning on March 16, 2015, flights PR118 and PR119 will also fly on Mondays in addition to its existing Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday flights. Flights will continue to be operated by the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

The move to expand flights in the United States and Canada comes after the Philippines was restored to Category 1 status by the United States Federal Aviation Administration. Earlier this year, Philippine Airlines President Ramon Ang revealed that the carrier planned to expand its service to the United States including increased frequency on existing routes to Honolulu, Guam, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.  In fact, the flag carrier is due to increase the frequency of its Honolulu flights to a daily service starting December 10, 2014 in time for the Christmas season.  In addition to New York, the carrier is also planning on serving other US destinations such as San Diego, Chicago, and Florida. 

Reference: Airline Route

Monday, September 1, 2014

Philippine Airlines Permanently Retires Boeing 747 Fleet

The last Philippine Airlines Boeing 747 commercial flight touched down from San Francisco early on Monday morning at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, ending an era that has spanned 35 years. Philippine Airlines is phasing out the Boeing 747-400 aircraft, its former flagship aircraft, in favour of the more fuel efficient Boeing 777.

Copyright Photo: Ian Gabriel/PPSG
The Boeing 747 aircraft first entered service with Philippine Airlines in December 1979, when the Philippine flag carrier accepted delivery of a Boeing 747-200 aircraft. At the time, it was the largest and most modern aircraft in the Philippine Airlines fleet, enabling the carrier to introduce new products and services for passengers including the first ever lie-flat beds for first-class passengers known as the "Skybed."

Image Source: Wikimedia
The beds were installed on the upper deck of the original Boeing 747 fleet. In the 1980's, Philippine Airlines was also the first to fly across the Pacific non-stop to the US and Europe using the Boeing 747 aircraft.

Image Source: Flickr
Philippine Airlines later accepted delivery of the Boeing 747-400 aircraft. The first model joined the PAL fleet in November 1993 after Philippine Airlines placed an order for eight aircraft and one combi variant. However, as the carrier was suffering from financial and economic problems at the time, only three of the eight aircraft ordered plus one combi variant were delivered brand-new. 

The combi aircraft was originally slated for Kuwait Airways, but as the Middle Eastern carrier failed to take up the order, Philippine Airlines accepted the aircraft instead and operated it in a full passenger configuration. As the carrier's financial health improved, it was later able to accept an additional Boeing 747 aircraft in 2003 that was part of the original order on a lease basis, bringing the carrier's total fleet of 747 aircraft up to five. 

Over its thirty-five year career with Philippine Airlines, the Boeing 747 fleet has been primarily used on the carrier's long-haul high-density routes to destinations with major overseas Filipino worker populations including North America, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East. The carrier also used the fleet occasionally on domestic routes to cities such as Cebu and Davao, as well as on regional routes to Hong Kong. Most recently, the fleet has been used on two of the airline's busiest routes operating from Manila to San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Philippine Airlines began retiring the Boeing 747 fleet shortly after the United States Federal Aviation Administration announced that the Philippines had been restored to Category 1 status. The announcement and lifting of Category 2 restrictions, enabled Philippine Airlines to deploy its more fuel-efficient Boeing 777 fleet on US routes. 

The airline expects to save as much as $120 million per year in fuel and maintenance costs by flying the Boeing 777 to the United States, rather than the Boeing 747. According to PAL President Ramon Ang, the Boeing 777 aircraft consume 25 percent less fuel compared to the Boeing 747 fleet. In addition, the maintenance costs are approximately 40 percent lower, while the Boeing 777 aircraft is overall 25 percent more efficient. 

The Boeing 747 fleet retirement at Philippine Airlines began with the aircraft registered, RP-C8168. An official retirement ceremony was held at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City earlier this year on May 12 to symbolically retire the aircraft, and pass the flagship onto its successor, the Boeing 777-300ER. The carrier had originally planned to retire the 747 fleet much earlier but was unable to do so due to fleet planning issues.

The very last Boeing 747-400 aircraft to operate in the fleet, RP-C7473, was delivered to Philippine Airlines on April 1, 1995. Unlike other aircraft deliveries, this delivery flight was unique in that the aircraft carried former Philippine President Fidel Ramos, who was in Seattle at the time attending the APEC meeting.

Copyright Photo: Ian Gabriel/PPSG
The final Philippine Airlines Boeing 747-400 flight, PR104, departed Manila for San Francisco on Saturday, August 30.

Copyright Photo: Millano Macatula/PPSG
To commemorate the occasion, passengers on the flight were provided with a letter revealing the significance of the occasion, and given an opportunity to take a special commemorative photo.

Copyright Photo: Ian Gabriel/PPSG
Image Source: Philippine Airlines/Facebook
The final return flight of the PAL Boeing 747 aircraft, PR105, later departed San Francisco on August 31 for the very last time with 285 passengers on board.

Copyright Photo: Daniel Lastrilla/PPSG

Copyright Photo: Daniel Lastrilla/PPSG
For many passengers and crew, the occasion was as emotional as it was historic with many special memories flying aboard the fleet.

Copyright Photo: Ian Gabriel/PPSG
The aircraft landed early on the morning of September 1 and taxied to Terminal 2 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, where it was welcomed by a water-cannon salute commemorating its retirement.

Image Source: GMA News
The aircraft later departed the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 7:00pm on September 1 for the last time on its ferry flight to Clark International Airport, where it will await deployment to its new home and owner.

The departure of the last Philippine Airlines Boeing 747 flight represents the end of an era, with the Boeing 777 now officially taking on the role as the flagship aircraft of Philippine Airlines. The Boeing 777 will now operate Philippine Airlines' daily flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and select flights to Vancouver and Toronto.

Image Source: Jun JP/PPSG
Model aircraft maker Gemini Jets has released a 1:400 scale die-cast model of the Philippine Airlines Boeing 747-400 commemorating the 400 series aircraft's 21 years of service with the carrier. 

Copyright Photo: Nikki Pili/PPSG

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cebu Pacific Cleared for Increased Flights to Five Countries

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has given a green light to Cebu Pacific, allowing the nation's largest low-cost carrier to mount additional flights to five international destinations. With the new entitlements, passengers bound for Singapore, Myanmar, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Macau may soon enjoy an increase in flights or even the possibility of new routes.

According to Cebu Pacific Vice President for Corporate Affairs, Jorenz Tanada, the decision by the local air regulator is a victory for both local and international travellers that will be able to take advantage of Cebu Pacific's low fares. "We commend the CAB air panel for their wisdom in rendering decisions that allow Philippine carriers to expand services in international routes," said Tanada. "This ultimately benefits the travelling public, as Cebu Pacific continues offering the lowest fares, and driving international arrivals aligned with the country's tourism goals."

Copyright Photo: Lester Tangco/PPSG
Changes will be almost immediately noticeable on the Manila to Singapore route, where Cebu Pacific plans to upgrade their daily A320 service to a 436-seat Airbus A330-300 with the additional 1,260 seat entitlements that has been allocated to the carrier.

As Cebu Pacific awaits further entitlements to Australia, service to the neighbouring nation of New Zealand will definitely be on the horizon now that the airline has been granted seven weekly flights between the two countries. Cebu Pacific may also be able to explore the possibility of serving New Zealand via Australia using fifth freedom rights if the opportunity presented itself. The carrier is presently focused on the launch of its inaugural flight to Sydney, which is due to take off on September 9. Cebu Pacific will fly between Manila and Sydney five times per week.

Another positive outcome of the most recent Civil Aeronautics Board hearing was Cebu Pacific's successful challenge of an extension to the current arrangement between Philippine Airlines and Emirates, where PAL has been loaning a portion of its flight entitlements to Emirates to operate flights between the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates on a code-sharing basis. However, Cebu Pacific has argued that such an agreement is "anti-competitive," and the Civil Aeronautics Board has agreed.

As Philippine Airlines and Emirates will not be able to extend their code-sharing agreement, Emirates will be forced to drop one of its daily flights between Manila and Dubai in October 2014. In addition, Philippine Airlines will need to launch a second daily flight to Dubai if it wishes to continue holding the existing flight entitlements. If PAL fails to use all of the existing flight entitlements to the United Arab Emirates, they may be reallocated to Cebu Pacific.

The application for the increased flight entitlements is all part of an on-going effort by Cebu Pacific to expand its network and increase its global reach. With a current network covering 59 domestic destinations, 36 international routes, and 2,403 scheduled weekly flights, Cebu Pacific is quickly becoming the nation's most dominant carrier with an already commanding share of the domestic market. In addition to the new flight entitlements, Cebu Pacific was also designated as an official Philippine carrier to New Zealand, Canada, and Myanmar.


Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines Offer Promotional Events for Filipino Passengers

Cathay Pacific (CX) and Singapore Airlines (SIA), two of the world's most multi-awarded five-star carriers, have major events lined up in the Philippines in an effort to attract more local passengers.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG


The Hong Kong-based carrier is launching its first ever roadshow in the Philippines. From August 29 to September 4, Cathay Pacific will set up a station at Power Plant Mall's North Court in Makati. One of the central features of the roadshow is that Cathay Pacific will showcase some highlights of its long-haul business and premium economy class seats to the public.

In addition, Citibank card holders can take advantage of an exclusive promotion. Passengers who use their Citibank cards to purchase one business or premium economy class seat can purchase a second seat for as little as US$50 plus taxes and surcharges. Cathay Pacific will also be offering promotions for destinations beyond their Hong Kong hub.

Image Source: Cathay Pacific
Cathay Pacific's new Business Class seat was launched in 2011. It features a reverse-herringbone 1-2-1 configuration where the side seats face the windows and the middle seats face each other.  It has a full-flat bed, storage space specifically designed for certain items, and an in-flight entertainment (IFE) system with audio-video on demand and provisions to allow passengers to watch contents from their portable devices. These seats are commonly found on board newer Airbus A330 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Copyright Photo: Chris McGinnis, Travel Advisor
The airline's Premium Economy Class was launched in 2012. These seats are considerably wider than regular economy class and there are only 26-34 seats depending on the aircraft type. They are configured with 7-abreast (2-3-2) on the Airbus A330 and Airbus A340-300 aircraft, and 8-seats abreast on the Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.  The seats are 19.5 inches wide and offer a pitch of 38 inches, and a recline of up to 8 inches from the upright position.  Additionally, premium economy passengers have a 25-kg baggage allowance compared to 20 kg for regular economy passengers.

Those who wish to take advantage of Cathay Pacific's promotions and to see for themselves the premium products that the world's best airline has to offer are encouraged to go to Rockwell Mall before September 4 to visit the Cathay Pacific booth.


Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines is having an online sale of its own to commemorate its move from Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 on September 1.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Passengers who wish to travel from Manila to Singapore between September 1 to 7 can get tickets for a low all-inclusive return fare as low as US$165 per passenger, excluding taxes and fees payable at the airport. In order to take advantage of the fare, a minimum of three passengers must travel in the same party.  They must also return within 7 days and can't amend the ticket once booked.  Passengers leaving Manila must fly on SQ919 and book their return on any flight except SQ910.  The fare can be purchased only by booking online at singaporeair.com. The promotional fare offered is a considerable discount compared to the lowest regular fare routinely offered, which is approximately USD$340, more than twice the cost of the promotional fare. However, passengers must book before September 1 in order to get the discount.


Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines represent some of the few carriers that have made it on to Skytrax's elite list of five-star carriers. In addition, Cathay Pacific was voted as the World's Best Airline for 2014 in the annual Skytrax World Airline awards. The carrier previously won the same award in 2003, 2005 and 2009. In January 2014, Cathay Pacific also won Best Business Class for 2014 in the Airline Excellence Awards sponsored by airlineratings.com. In the Customer Service Excellence Awards 2013 sponsored by the Hong Kong Association for Customer Service Excellence, it won the "Gold Award" among others.

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines is not far behind. In the 2014 World Airline Awards, Singapore Airlines ranked third, just behind Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific.  In July 2014, Singapore Airlines won Best Airline by Business Traveller Germany, Best Airline by businessinsider.com for a second consecutive year, Overall Best Airline for a third consecutive year and Best in-flight meals by Japan-based AB Road, and Best International Airline for an eighth consecutive year by TravelAge West in the US during its 2014 Wave Awards.


Both Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines offer more flights to Manila each day than any other foreign carrier.  Together they provide up to 10 flights daily connecting Manila with the rest of the world through their respective hubs in Hong Kong and Singapore. Both carriers utilise wide body aircraft on their Manila flights, which often feature some of the latest in-flight amenities such as audio-video on-demand in-flight entertainment and lie-flat seats for business class passengers. Like Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific is also expected to move to Terminal 3 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in an effort to reduce congestion at the ageing Terminal 1. However, neither Cathay Pacific nor the Manila International Airport Authority has publicly announced a definite transfer date yet.

In addition, Cathay Pacific flies once a day to Cebu, and its regional subsidiary Dragonair flies once a day to Manila and Clark.  Singapore Airlines' regional subsidiary SilkAir also mounts regular flights to Cebu, Davao and Kalibo.