Thursday, March 26, 2015

DEVELOPING STORY: Germanwings 9525 Updates

The New York Times and French authorities are now reporting initial findings from the recovered cockpit data recorder.  

Image by Juergen Lehle / Wikimedia

Earlier reports surfaced that the co-pilot was locked out of the flight deck, tried knocking on the door lightly to no avail before he attempted pounding on it more heavily.

French Prosecutors are now saying that it is possible that the co-pilot crashed the Airbus A320 aircraft on purpose.  Prosecutor Brice Robin says that the captain went to the toilet but was unable to get back inside.  The co-pilot was said to assume control of the flight, accelerated its descent, and did not say a word as the captain requested to re-enter the flight deck.  The rapid descent happened for about eight minutes.

If this is true, this could be a departure from previous hypothesis that foul play was unlikely.

At this point, neither Germanwings nor its parent company Lufthansa is confirming that this happened.  They are also not yet revealing what their policy for pilots who need to leave the flight deck is whilst airborne.

The crash has claimed the lives of 150 passengers and crew on board, including 72 Germans, 35 Spanish (though it may go up to 51 according to Spanish officials), 3 Argentines, Americans, Brits and Kazahks each among others.  Also among the victims were opera singers Maria Radner and Oleg Bryjak.

Stay tuned to Philippine Flight Network for more updates on this developing story.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Manila-Dubai Flights to be Transferred to Philippine Airlines

Effective March 29 2015, PAL Express will drop its Manila-Dubai route.  The airline has been operating the route since November 2013.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG

However, Manila-Dubai flights will not be leaving the PAL group altogether.  Such flights will then be served by the mainline flag carrier Philippine Airlines.  The Airbus A330 which was used in PAL Express operations will be operated by Philippine Airlines for the same route.  Flight times will remain unaffected however, the Tuesday flight will not operate from April 15-November 30.

Philippine Airlines President Jaime Bautista says that this is a move to allow PAL Express to focus more on serving domestic flights.  Nonetheless flights to Cebu and Davao from Manila (and vice versa), which offer business class, will still be operated by the mainline flag carrier.

Philippine Airlines currently serves several Middle East destinations like Riyadh, Dammam, Abu Dhabi.  Bautista previously indicated that the Middle East continues to be an important market for the carrier.

Source: Interaksyon, ABS-CBN News

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

DEVELOPING STORY: Germanwings Aircraft Crashes in France

Late Tuesday morning in France, a Germanwings Airbus A320 has crashed near the town of Digne-les-Bains in France.  Flight 9525 was making a routine flight from Barcelona, Spain to Düsseldorf, Germany.

Image by Wikimedia
Reports put it that 150 passengers and crew members were on board.  This figures includes 16 German pupils and two teachers returning from an exchange trip.   A distress call was made at 38,000 feet when it started rapidly descending at about 3,440-6,000 feet a minute.  The aircraft loss contact with air traffic controllers at 6,800 feet.  Later in the day, the black box was retrieved.  

French President Francois Hollande said that survivors are unlikely and expressed his sympathy to the families of the passengers and crew.  Hollande also happened to be hosting the Spanish Royal Family, whom he also expressed sympathy with.  French Interior, Environment and Transport ministers, were sent to the crash scene, which is in the French Alps.  The Spanish Development minister was also deployed to the crash site to assist her French and German counterparts and pledged that Spain will cooperate in aspects such as logistics, operations, and investigation.

Germanwings is a low-cost subsidiary of Lufthansa.  Until this incident, the carrier has had an impeccable safety record.

Stay tuned to Philippine Flight Network for more updates in this developing story.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Philippine Airlines Has Finally Returned to New York

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) leaves a footprint in New York City for the first time since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.  Flight PR126 made its debut on March 15 2015.  PAL Chairman Dr Lucio Tan chose this date for the maiden flight in order for it to coincide with the 74th anniversary of the founding of Asia's first airline.  

Image by Kenny Li/PPSG

Although an Airbus A340-300 is normally allocated to this route, the inaugural flight was flown using Philippine Airlines' flagship aircraft, the Boeing 777-300ER.  The latter aircraft has 370 seats across all classes and personal in-flight entertainment embedded in each seat.  

Pomp and ceremonies were in order for the maiden flight in Manila, as well as in Vancouver and New York.  Sections of Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport were specially decorated with replicas of landmarks and icons associated with the Big Apple for the occasion.  Tan, PAL President and COO Jaime Bautista, and US Ambassador to the Philippines Phillip Goldberg presided over the traditional ribbon cutting.  Singer Martin Nivera graced passengers at the holding area with a song number.  Nivera reportedly also performed a song number to passengers whilst the flight was airborne.  Refreshments associated with New York such as hotdogs, lemonade and chips were also served from a make-shift booth. 

A local Filipino dance was also performed in Vancouver International Airport, where the flight makes a routine stopover on the way to New York and back.  

The debut flight finally landed in New York's John F Kennedy airport at about 6.42 am on Monday, March 16 2015.  Officials from the Philippine mission in the United States were present to greet passengers disembarking from the flight in New York.  The delegation included Philippine Ambassador to the United States Cuisia,  Consul General to New York Mario de Leon and Consul General to Washington Emilio Fernandez among others.  These officials, along with Bautista also sent off the hundred passengers who were set to fly to Manila on flight PR127.

Philippine Airlines flies four times a week between Manila and New York: Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  All these flights depart Manila at 10.50 pm annd will have a stopover at Vancouver.  They are finally scheduled to arrive in New York's John F Kennedy airport at about 7.00 am the following morning.  The return flight leaves New York at 11.00 am and lands back in Manila the following evening after another stopover in Vancouver.  With a total journey time of approximately 16 and a half hours, this is now the flag carriers' longest flight.

Left: Philippine Embassy and PAL Officials in New York's JFK Airport
Right: Philippine Airlines Boeing 777-300ER Aircraft at New York's JFK Airport
Images by: Emil Fernandez/Philippine Embassy in the US
The flag carrier's expansion to New York comes nearly a year after the Philippines received an upgrade of its aviation safety rating to Category 1 from the US' Federal Aviation Administration after six years of being in a Category 2 status.  Since the Category 1 upgrade, Philippine Airlines has made good on plans to enhance and expand its existing US services such as deploy its flagship Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to San Francisco and Los Angeles, and increase frequency and capacity to cities such as Honolulu.  

With more than 250,000 Filipinos residing in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, PAL management have touted the launch of this route as a welcome development for Filipinos who wish to travel there and vice versa, with Bautista reiterating in an interview with Bloomberg that the Manila-New York route is a "very important" one for the flag carrier.  Ambassador Cuisia also expressed confidence that the additional flights will boost tourist and business activities to the Philippines from the US.

Bautista also indicated that the flag carrier eventually intends to make the New York service daily.  However he said that existing air service agreements limit Philippine Airlines' ability to expand service via Vancouver to only five times a week.  He said that a daily flight is preferable as it means better service than just the current four times a week.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Philippine Airlines Makes Major Adjustments to London, Introduces New York Service

If the latest timetables by are to be believed, the month of March will see significant additions and adjustments to Philippine Airlines' long-haul services.

Image by Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG

Effective March 2, Philippine Airlines will mostly see a reduction of its flights between Manila and London from 5 to 4 times per week.  However, the departure time from Manila will be timed in such a way to depart shortly after lunch instead of its previous early morning time slots.

The outbound flight, PR720, departs Manila on Monday, Friday and Sunday at 12.45 pm and arrives in London Heathrow at 9.00 pm.  PR720 also flies on Wednesday but departs Manila slightly earlier at 12.40 pm and arrives at 8.55 pm.  Its return flight counterpart, PR721 will then depart London on the same day at 10.55 pm and then arrive back in Manila the following day at 8.05 pm.  

During the period covering April 11 to May 2 however, the flag carrier will operate an additional Saturday flight, PR722.  This flight departs Manila at 7.20 am and arrive in London at 3.35 pm.  The return flight, PR723, will depart London at 6.25 pm and arrive in Manila at 3.45 pm on Sundays.  

All these London flights are to continue being operated by an Airbus A340-300.

In an interview with Asia Travel Tips, Philippine Airlines country manager for Thailand Josh Vasquez admitted that the Manila-London flight as well as the wider European market has been quite challenging for them and that the flag carrier has been "hanging in there".  

However, Vasquez also said the flag carrier was happy to announce its upcoming flight to New York.  Philippine Airlines will start flying there on March 15.  Given that half a million Filipinos live on the east coast of the US, Vasquez said that their upcoming flight will be a welcome development for them as well as Filipinos who have friends on the east coast.

PR126 departs Manila on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11.45 pm and arrives in New York's JFK airport the following day at 7.30 am.  The return leg, PR127 departs New York on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 11.00 am.  All flights will have a stopover in Vancouver where Philippine Airlines has full traffic rights between that city and New York.  These flights will also use an Airbus A340-300.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Philippine Airlines President Jaime Bautista, who said the flag carrier is not keen on expanding in Europe, planning instead to focus more on markets like the United States and building its presence there.  Bautista returned to becoming PAL President after Lucio Tan regained full control of PAL from Ramon Ang's San Miguel Corporation.  Under Ang's leadership, massive expansion plans also included more flights to Europe.

Despite apparently challenging scenarios for direct Philippines-Europe flights experienced by Philippine Airlines and other carriers, a new player is set to enter.  On March 30, Turkish Airlines will launch flights between Istanbul and Manila, which is initially set for three times weekly.  This development marks the first time since the 1990s that a European carrier enters the Philippine market.  Since then, European carriers have gradually left the Philippines leaving KLM the sole European carrier serving the country.  Turkish Airlines' entry also marks the first time since 2012 that a European carrier will be flying nonstop between the Philippines and any point in Europe.  Given the flight's arrival time in Istanbul as well as Istanbul's location on the map, passengers on the flight can make convenient connections to most major cities in Europe without "backtracking".

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ethiopian Airlines Eyes June Launch for Manila Route

After postponing its original plan to begin flights to Manila in July 2013, Ethiopian Airlines has once again set a target launch date for service to the Philippines. The Ethiopian flag carrier plans to begin service to Manila on June 27 with three weekly flights to its hub in Addis Ababa via Bangkok. It will be the only direct link between the Philippines and Africa.
Image Source: Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines will be operating its Manila service with a Boeing 787-8 aircraft. Flights will depart Addis Ababa at 12:40am with a brief one hour and ten minute stopover in Bangkok, eventually arriving in Manila at 7:00pm. The return flight will depart Manila at 10:00pm and arrive in Addis Ababa the following day at 6:30am after a similar stop over in Bangkok.
The Star Alliance carrier was originally planning to serve Manila with a Boeing 767 with flights routing through Hong Kong. Although flights are now currently routing through Bangkok, Ethiopian Airlines does not currently have local traffic rights to carry passengers between Bangkok and Manila.
Manila won't be the only new destination in Asia for the carrier. Ethiopian is also planning to create the only direct link between Africa and Japan when it launches three weekly flights to Tokyo's Narita Airport in April. The new flights will be operated in a code-share partnership with fellow Star Alliance carrier, All Nippon Airways.
Ethiopian Airlines was the third airline in the world to own and operate a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The carrier currently has ten 787 aircraft in the fleet, making it the largest Dreamliner operator in Africa. 
According to Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam, the 787 aircraft boast full flat seats in business class and the latest in-flight entertainment. "It is our core fleet and very popular among our customers. We have more load factor on the routes we operate Dreamliners," said Tewolde.
Ethiopian Airlines currently flies to 84 destinations across five continents with 50 of those destinations in Africa. In addition to Manila and Tokyo, the carrier plans to launch service to Dublin and Los Angeles later this year. Ethiopian is often rated as one of the top carriers in the region and is presently ranked the largest and most profitable airline in Africa.