Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Bautista Lays out Plans for Philippine Airlines in 2016 and Beyond

Philippine Airlines President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime Bautista sat down with Asia Travel Tips to share the flag carrier's plans for the year 2016 and beyond.

Image by Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG

One of the first points that Bautista gave was that the flag carrier is embarking on a programme designed to make it a five star carrier.  This programme includes what to do to improve the customer experience.  Philippine Airlines is currently rated a three star carrier under Skytrax's airline rating system.  Five star airlines include Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Asiana Airlines, and All Nippon Airways among others.  

Bautista also reiterated the launch of a Cebu-Los Angeles flight come March 15 2016.  This makes it possible for passengers from the United States who wish to proceed to Cebu to bypass Philippine Airlines' hub at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.  In addition, a flight to Saipan and a European destination are also in the pipeline.  Bautista is unable to disclose what the European destination is but hopes to operate it from Manila by 2017.  

Five Airbus A321s and two Boeing 777-300ERs will also join the fleet this year.  It has also been reported that the flag carrier will soon announce its intention to order six more aircraft of a different type.  It is deciding between the Airbus A350 or Boeing 787.

Bautista suggested joining an alliance is challenging as the being a member requires an invitation from the alliance.  They tried requesting one already but it did not materialise.  Instead, they are relying on codeshare agreements with multiple carriers for the time being.  Philippine Airlines is also providing more seats for Mabuhay Miles members to redeem points from and is partnering with more carriers to earn and use Mabuhay Miles with.  

The flag carrier has also increased the content of in-flight entertainment systems on its Boeing 777s, and reiterated its WiFi offering.  Bautista did not rule out the possibility of eventually making WiFi use free-of-charge but this is subject to the carrier 'becoming as efficient as the system' where they can pass savings from more efficient operations to passengers.  As he reiterated the system which allows passengers to stream IFE content on their own devices, Bautista also shared weight-reduction (and fuel cost-reduction measures) by using iPads to store crew manuals and to integrate in-flight magazines into the IFE.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

New Flights Between the Philippines and Middle East Coming in 2016

Filipinos will have more choices on how to get to the Middle East shortly after the new year arrives.  This is because various carriers will introduce new flights to serve the large overseas filipino community there.

Doha International Airport
Image by RoB/Wikimedia

The latest timetables suggest that Emirates will operate a triangular route between Dubai, Cebu and Clark starting March 30 2016.  It will be labelled as EK338.  It departs Dubai at 2.55 am then touches down at Cebu at 3.50 pm.  It continues on to Clark at 5.25 pm.  After a brief stopover, it departs back for Dubai at 8.20 pm.  The route will be flown on a daily basis and like other Emirates flights to the Philippines, they will use a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on the route. 

This latest flight for Emirates marks the second time a gulf carrier flies directly from the Middle East into Cebu.  Qatar Airways previously flew from their base in Qatar to Cebu for more than eight years.  Although the route experienced high demand, Qatar Airways decided to suspend the route in 2012 for 'commercial reasons'.  This also marks the return of Emirates to Clark, who suspended its Dubai-Clark flights in March 2014 citing 'intense competition' and 'high tax costs'.

In addition, Emirates will also increase its flights to Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport starting March 29 2016.  EK336 leaves Dubai airport at 4.50 pm every Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  It arrives in Manila at 5.00 am the next day.  EK337 then departs Manila at 6.40 am on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  It will then return to Dubai at 11.40 am.  

Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines will tweak its Abu Dhabi flights.  PR656, will continue from Abu Dhabi to Doha effective March 28.  The return leg, PR657, flies back from Doha to Manila via Abu Dhabi at 10.05 am, returning to Manila at 3.50 am the following day.  Airlineroute reports that the flight will operate up to five times a week.  There is no indication yet as to whether the flag carrier can sell tickets for passengers who want to fly solely between Abu Dhabi and Doha.  

This follows Cebu Pacific's move to reintroduce flights to Doha since July 4 2015.  The low-cost carrier now flies two times a week between Manila and Doha.

Even as local carriers expand their footing in the Middle East, they have not done so without expressing concern over competition from established Middle Eastern carriers.  Philippine Airlines President Jaime Bautista says that over 70% of travellers flying via Dubai are ultimately bound for another destination, and hence firmly believes the Manila-Dubai route suffers an overcapacity of seats.

The expansion of flights to the Middle East also comes at the heels of an amended air service agreement between Philippines and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  The agreement now increases the allowed flights from 28 to 35 per week.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Philippine Airlines and China Airlines Forge Codeshare Agreement

Taiwanese carrier China Airlines joins a growing list of foreign carriers that have reciprocal codeshare agreements with Philippine Airlines.

Codeshare flights operated by China Airlines began on December 1.  China Airlines-operated flights CI701/702 will correspond to Philippine Airlines-marketed flights PR871/872.  CI703/704 will also correspond to PR873/874.  Philippine Airlines-operated flight PR896 and PR899 corresponds to China Airlines-marketed flights CI9802 and CI9805 respectively, among others.  

China Airlines is based in Taipei's Taoyuan Airport.  Passengers not bound for Taiwan can still transit in Taipei for flights to North Asia, Europe and North America.  China Airlines is also a member of the Sky Team.  

With this new codeshare agreement with China Airlines, the flag carrier now has a codeshare partner with at least one carrier from each of the major airline alliances.  Philippine Airlines also has codeshare agreements with All Nippon Airways (ANA), Etihad, WestJet, Cathay Pacific, Turkish Airlines, and Malaysia Airlines.  Philippine Airlines effectively has its own flight codes on selected intra-Japan and Canada flights operated by ANA and WestJet respectively, while ANA and Etihad have their own flight codes on selected flights within the Philippines operated by Philippine Airlines.

Although officials at the flag carrier expressed their desire to someday join an alliance, the Star Alliance all but ruled out interest in letting Asia's first airline join its ranks, citing a desire to protect interests of its existing members before letting other carriers in.

Passengers on code-share flights benefit by receiving a boarding card for both flights at their point-of-origin, and a more seamless transfer experience.  Lounge access and mileage accrual on codeshare partners' facilities may also be possible.  

Emirates Increases Flights to Manila During Summer 2016

Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines may once again face more competition on flights to Dubai starting the summer of 2016.  This is because according to the latest timetables, Emirates will increase its flights.

Image source: Emirates

Emirates will operate four more flights between Dubai and Manila beginning March 29, 2016.  This is on top of the twice-daily service they already have.  It brings the total number of weekly flights operated by Emirates to 18.  EK336 leaves Dubai airport at 4.50 pm every Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  It arrives in Manila at 5.00 am the next day.  EK337 then departs Manila at 6.40 am on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  It will then return to Dubai at 11.40 am.  Just like the two other existing Emirates flights, EK336 and EK337 use a Boeing 777-300ER. 

Passengers who are not bound for Dubai or the Middle East can still benefit from the additional flights.  This is because Emirates has an extensive network that includes destinations in Europe, Africa and the Americas.  The Emirates network also includes what will be the world's longest flight to Panama City, a service that commences in February 2016.

However, Philippine-based carriers have long expressed their concerns about Emirates' mounting of additional flights to Manila.  Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific said that doing so undermines competition.  Both carriers also mount flights to Dubai using a high-density Airbus A330 aircraft.  The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation also says that the UAE is the largest destination in the Middle East for Filipino travellers.  However Philippine Airlines chief Jaime Bautista says that more than 70% of travellers flying via Dubai are ultimately bound for another destination, and hence maintains there is actually an overcapacity of seats for people solely flying between the Philippines and UAE.

Recently, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed an amended air service agreement that expanded the number of weekly flights between the two countries from 28 to 35, despite pleas from local carriers.  

Source: Airlineroute, CAPA

Monday, November 30, 2015

Philippine Airlines: Cairns and New Zealand Flights Begin December 2

Philippine Airlines is gearing up for another milestone as it prepares to launch service to New Zealand for the first time beginning on December 2. The national flag carrier will operate four weekly flights to New Zealand via Cairns, Australia.

philippine airlines auckland flights
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Flights will be operated by a 156-seat Airbus A320 aircraft, which will depart from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Introductory round-trip airfares from Manila to Auckland start at US$880, while round-trip flights originating in Auckland start at US$705.

As Philippine Airlines will be making a stop in Cairns, Australia, there is also an opportunity to utilise the new service to travel between Cairns and Auckland or Manila and Cairns. Flights from Auckland to Cairns are being sold starting at US$378 round-trip, while the same trip originating in Australia is being sold starting at US$368 round-trip. 

If you are travelling from Manila to Cairns, round-trip tickets start at US$1200, while return tickets from Cairns to Manila are being sold starting at just US$523. Given the large discrepancy in pricing for the same route depending on where one originates, it is clear that Philippine Airlines is making an aggressive push to attract Australian tourists to the Philippines and connecting traffic bound for other points in North Asia. 

Philippine Airlines President, Jaime Bautista, will be on-board the inaugural flight and attending a dinner reception in Auckland to celebrate the new service. According to Bautista, the new route will stimulate traffic across three separate channels: Manila-Cairns, Manila-Auckland, and Cairns-Auckland.

"The new service allows Philippine Airlines to cater to the travel needs of business and leisure travelers and showcase its distinct brand of service marked by Filipino warmth, charm, and hospitality," said Bautista. "Filipinos residing in New Zealand will find the new service as their convenient link to their home country."

Currently, there are approximately 44,000 Filipinos in New Zealand. Auckland is the largest airport in New Zealand and the country's main transport hub. It is located just 649 kilometres from New Zealand's capital, Wellington.

Both Australians and New Zealanders are eagerly anticipating the new service, which is expected to bolster tourism traffic between the two cities. Philippine Airlines will become the only carrier providing regularly scheduled non-stop service between Cairns and Auckland, competing against Air New Zealand's service, which is only seasonal.

According to Philippine Airlines' Regional Manager for Australia and New Zealand, Ian Robinson, early bookings on the route were as expected with the majority of traffic coming from the Philippines, New Zealand, and North Queensland. However, early indications show promise from North Asian countries. 

"Interest in New Zealand is going through the roof," said Robinson in an interview with the Cairns Post. "Indications at this time are promising from other north Asian countries for travel to Far North Queensland via Manila on this route. It takes time to develop a new service, but we have confidence in the sustainable success of this new service."

Robinson added that this will be the first time that Philippine Airlines has flown to either Cairns or Auckland. "This is certainly a significan investment in our brand in this region and a noteworthy commitment to the Australia and New Zealand markets," said Robinson. He added that this will also be the first regularly scheduled service between Auckland and Cairns after Jetstar stopped operating the route two years ago. 

Meanwhile, preparations are under way at Cairns Airport to welcome the inaugural flight. "We are planning a very warm welcome for the inaugural, due in at 7:30am, with local government, business, and tourism industry representatives turning out to celebrate the occasion," said Kevin Brown, Chief Executive of Cairns Airport. "It is always exciting to welcome a new airline and with the new Philippine Airlines service, we are welcoming flights on not just one, but two international routes as they operate Manila-Cairns-Auckland."

This December, Philippine Airlines will grow its Australasia network to eight destinations with the addition of Cairns and Auckland. Service to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea will also be added on December 18. That represents massive growth from three to eight Australasia destinations in less than three years.

The other destinations served by Philippine Airlines in the region include Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin, Brisbane, and Guam. It remains unclear if Philippine Airlines will return to Perth, a destination that it served briefly via Darwin in 2013 with A320 aircraft. Overall, Philippine Airlines will deploy nearly 6,000 weekly one-way seats to the Southwest Pacific in the beginning of 2016, which is almost double the capacity it had two years earlier.

Philippine Airlines will become only the third airline from outside the South Pacific region to serve Cairns, which is also served by Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific and Singapore based SilkAir. Cairns is primarily a leisure market. Philippine Airlines will be banking on strong demand between Cairns and Auckland, as well as demand from passengers in Australia and New Zealand bound for other countries in North Asia and vice versa. 

According to a report recently released by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, Philippine Airlines still has opportunities in the regional international market within Asia Pacific in spite of intense competition from low-cost carriers such as Cebu Pacific. "Smaller niche markets such as Cairns, Port Moresby, and Perth do not have the volume to support low-cost carriers," stated CAPA in its report. "But can be potentially lucrative for a nimble network carrier such as PAL. However, Philippine Airlines will need to be relatively conservative and cautious as it continues its regional expansion."

Cairns and Auckland will become Philippine Airlines' 37th and 38th international destinations, while Port Moresby will become the 39th on December 18.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cebu Pacific Launches First US Destination, Flights to Guam Now on Sale

Cebu Pacific, the nation's largest low cost carrier, has confirmed its commitment to launch flights to the United States with the official announcement that it will begin flying to Guam in March. Earlier this week, Cebu Pacific launched its first US route with all-in fares between Manila and Guam for as low as P2,500.
cebu pacific flights to guam
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
The flights are expected to begin on March 15 with Cebu Pacific operating four weekly flights to Guam from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. Flights will be operated by the carrier's Airbus A320 aircraft. Cebu Pacific is now the only low-cost carrier flying between Guam and the Philippines.

Flights will be operated every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Each flight will depart Manila at 3:45am and arrive in Guam at 10:15am. The return trip will depart Guam at 12:30pm, and arrive back in Manila at 2:55pm.

"Having Guam in our network sets us off on another expansion path across the Pacific," said Lance Gokongwei, CEO of Cebu Pacific. "With the launch of Guam, we offer fares that are up to 83% lower than other airlines. Fares this low can only mean more tourists to both countries, more Filipinos visiting home, and more opportunities for everyone."

Cebu Pacific believes that the Manila to Guam route is currently underserved compared to other destinations with even smaller Filipino populations. At present, 26 percent of Guam's population is Filipino. Currently, United Airlines and Philippine Airlines offer 5,900 weekly seats between Manila and Guam. Cebu Pacific will add an additional 1,440.

Cebu Pacific is once again banking on its lowest fares to stimulate demand and increase traffic between the two destinations. When promo fares to Guam are not available, Cebu Pacific's year-round all-in fares to Guam will start at just P7,197, which is forty percent lower than its competitors.