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.

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.

Turkish Airlines Plans Daily Flights to Manila

Turkish Airlines, the national flag carrier of Turkey, has revealed ambitious expansion plans for the Philippines, when it begins service with three weekly flights between Manila and Istanbul on March 30. The Turkish carrier, which is often ranked one of the world's premier airlines, has unveiled a long-term plan to fly to Manila on a daily basis. 

turkish airlines istanbul manila
Image Source: Wikimedia
According to Erhan Balaban, Turkish Airlines' General Manager for Philippine operations, the carrier sees a lot of opportunity in the Philippines. "At first, we will have three direct flights weekly, then we'll see if we can have daily flights," said Balaban. "We are very much excited about this collaboration with the Philippine airline industry. We see the Philippines as an important market for us."

When flights launch on March 30, the carrier expects demand to slowly increase as tourists learn of the direct flight, which will be popular for those on packaged vacations and pilgrimages. As a member of Star Alliance, Turkish Airlines also has its eyes set on frequent travellers and corporate passengers that are looking for the convenience of a direct flight to Europe, coupled with a superior product.

Balaban noted that the maiden flight, which is set to take off on March 30, is nearly fully booked as "the direct flight sparked renewed interest from Filipinos to travel to Turkey." The maiden journey is expected to include diplomatic officials and businessmen from both nations.

Following the maiden flight, Turkish Airlines expects to offer special launch fares to Turkey and special seasonal fares to Manila. The direct flight between Manila and Istanbul will shorten the journey by approximately three hours, with travel aboard the non-stop flight expected to take 12 hours. The carrier will launch its Philippine service with Airbus A340 aircraft. However, it is believed that Turkish Airlines plans to eventually upgrade the service to Boeing 777 aircraft. 

Balaban believes that Turkish tourists will be interested in the opportunity to enjoy the Philippine beach destinations of Palawan, Boracay, and Bohol. However, corporate travel is expected to flourish as well as business ties between the two nations grow. Passengers bound for Europe will also be able to enjoy Turkish Airlines' seamless connections at Istanbul Airport, which serves as a transfer point for a number of European and Scandinavian destinations.

Flights between Manila and Istanbul will be operated every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Flights depart Istanbul at 1:00am, arriving in the Philippines at 6:00pm. The return flight will depart Manila at 8:50pm, and arrive in Istanbul the following morning at 5:05am.

Manila won't be the only addition to the Turkish Airlines network in March. The carrier plans to also add non-stop service to Abuja in Nigeria and Taipei, Taiwan. Turkish Airlines currently boasts the world's fourth largest flight network serving 261 destination in 108 countries.

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Philippine Airlines Partners with Canada's WestJet

With the rising number of Filipinos living in major Canadian city centres, Philippine Airlines has announced that it has entered into a code-share agreement with WestJet Airlines of Canada. Under the agreement, Philippine Airlines will stretch its network in Canada from Vancouver and Toronto to five more Canadian cities including: Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg. 

westjet philippine airlines
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
The new agreement with WestJet will help Philippine Airlines to double its presence in North America to 10 destinations in spite of a shortage of wide-body aircraft needed for further expansion. Analysts suggest that the move is an effective way for Philippine Airlines to expand, using aircraft operated by another carrier, particularly when certain markets may not be strong enough to support their own direct flight. 

Philippine Airlines will now be placing its own flight numbers and selling seats on the following routes operated by WestJet: Toronto to Ottawa, Toronto to Montreal, Vancouver to Calgary, Vancouver to Edmonton, Vancouver to Toronto, and Vancouver to Winnipeg. 

Filipinos travelling to Canada will now be able to enjoy a seamless travel experience with the ability to book flights through Philippine Airlines to onward Canadian destinations served by WestJet from Toronto and Vancouver. Passengers will board the Philippine Airlines aircraft in Manila bound for Vancouver or Toronto, and then upon arrival in Canada, connect to a WestJet flight bound for Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton, or Calgary on a single-ticket.

Although Philippine Airlines will be code-sharing on a WestJet flight between Vancouver and Toronto, it is believed that PAL will continue to operate its own flights to Toronto via Vancouver. However, it remains uncertain if the Philippine flag carrier will continue to operate this route in the long-term, particularly with New York flights slated to begin in mid-March. It is rumoured that PAL is currently exploring the option of having only WestJet operate its Toronto flight extension.

Philippine Airlines currently operates non-stop flights from Manila to Vancouver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Toronto is served via Vancouver, and New York will also be served via Vancouver when it launches on March 15. 

Under the code-sharing deal, passengers of Philippine Airlines will also be able to connect to WestJet's extensive network throughout North America, Central America, Europe, and the Caribbean. WestJet currently serves more than 120 destinations in over 20 countries.

philippine airlines westjet
Image Source: WestJet
This is the ninth code-sharing agreement for Philippine Airlines. PAL also has existing agreements with Gulf Air, Malaysia Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, and PAL Express.

WestJet and Philippine Airlines previously had an interline agreement, enabling passengers to enjoy a single check-in and automatic baggage transfer to the final destination in spite of flying two different carriers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Security Concerns Raised at Kalibo International Airport

A recent report published in the Manila Bulletin has revealed an alarming security lapse that took place last month at Kalibo International Airport, gateway to the popular beach resort destination of Boracay Island. According to the report, a female with absolutely no passport or money was able to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Seoul Incheon Airport in South Korea.

Image Source: MIASCOR
Leah Castro Reginio managed to slip past authorities at Kalibo International Airport in January without any travel documents or money and board Philippine Airlines flight 490 bound for Seoul. Reginio, a native of Antique province, is in her late thirties.

A source at the airport told the Manila Bulletin that Reginio seamlessly proceeded through what was allegedly supposed to be a secure facility, clearing a number of check points including the entrance gate, immigration, and even the boarding gate controlled by staff of Philippine Airlines. 

It was even revealed by the source that Reginio was served in-flight meals during the flight and brought a blanket by one of Philippine Airlines' flight attendants. But after landing in Seoul, it didn't take Korean authorities long to single the Aklan-native out. 

Reginio was observed loitering inside the Incheon Airport, where Korean airport authorities questioned her. As Reginio could not produce a passport or any travel document, she was escorted immediately by Korean officials to board the return flight back to Kalibo.

It is believed that Flight Officers on the Philippine Airlines flight initially refused to board Reginio, arguing with Korean authorities that she was not on the passenger manifest. However, Korean Airport Officers were able to review security camera footage that clearly showed Reginio emerging from the Philippine Airlines flight, shortly after it landed in Korea. 

Reginio was eventually boarded onto the flight, where she was served meals like regular paying passengers. Upon landing back at Kalibo International Airport, Reginio was turned over to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. Officials had a difficult time obtaining information from Reginio when questioned. However, she admitted that she was able to enter Kalibo International Airport and board the flight for free.

After failing to obtain any meaningful information from Reginio, CAAP officials made attempts to locate her relatives in Antique. Upon locating relatives, investigators discovered that Reginio suffers from schizophrenia, a mental disorder that leads to abnormal social behaviour and an inability to recognize reality.

Investigators recalled how Reginio was smiling and laughing the majority of the time that she was being questioned. She even claimed that she had succesfully boarded a ferry without paying anything. Following questioning by CAAP officials, Reginio was later released to a relative without any charges filed. 

However, the incident has raised concerns at Kalibo International Airport, where the security lapses involve a number of parties including immigration, airport authorities, and Philippine Airlines personnel. 

Church and government officials in the province of Aklan have publicly criticized the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines for its mismanagement of Kalibo International Airport, which has long remained a source of frustration for travellers and an embarrassment to the country.

Countless passengers have shared personal experiences revealing the uncomfortable experience of travelling through what is one of the busiest airports in the Philippines. Provincial government officials in Aklan singled out CAAP Kalibo International Airport Manager Cynthia Aspera, holding her accountable for the negative experiences of passengers.

According to Vice Governor Gabrielle Calizo-Quimpo, the leadership of Aklan is disappointed in the way that the Civil Aviation Authority operates Kalibo International Airport. "We have been receiving from tourists numerous complaints about the airport's operation," said Quimpo. "There are too many delayed flights, lack of comfort rooms, and air-conditioning units."

A number of on-going issues have been raised regarding the terminal. Most recently, the Panay News reported continued congestion in the passenger terminal building and foul odors infiltrating the terminal from the comfort rooms. In addition, passengers have complained about a lack of seating, long queues for the only two comfort rooms in the terminal, and relaxed security.

Governor Florencio Miraflores expressed concern over the airport's management and is hoping to see improvements this year. But nobody from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines would comment on the issue.

References: Panay News, Manila Bulletin

Monday, February 9, 2015

Philippine Airlines Considers Expansion of NAIA Terminal 2

Philippine Airlines is considering expansion of its primary terminal at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in preparation to accommodate the large number of new aircraft that will be incoming over the next several years. The national flag carrier is currently evaluating a $200-million expansion plan of Terminal 2, that would be able to meet the increasing demand of the coming years.

Image Source: YouTube
According to Philippine Airlines President Jaime Bautista, the proposed expansion of Terminal 2 would be primarily used for international flights. The project would be constructed on an existing adjacent 18-hectare lot that was previously used by Nayong Pilipino, but has long sat idle. Bautista indicated that an expanded terminal would be able to serve at least an additional ten million passengers annually, in addition to the existing eight million that is served by the current terminal.

In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Bautista said that if it was up to him, the project would begin before the end of 2015, as Terminal 2 is nearing its full capacity. "This is important," said Bautista. "It's part of our long-term plan, which is to expand Terminal 2."

Philippine Airlines is expecting to accept delivery of an additional 38 aircraft by 2024 to complement its existing fleet of 73 aircraft. Bautista has already been pushing hard for delivery deferrals as the carrier is not ready to accept any more aircraft. In addition, the carrier will need a home for additional long-haul aircraft that are yet to be ordered to support expansion in key markets such as the United States. 

PAL is the only carrier that operates from NAIA Terminal 2, which opened in 1999 as the Centennial Terminal. A 25-year lease has been secured by the carrier for the adjacent Nayong Pilipino property. Bautista intends to invest P600 million in the property in order to prepare it for us as a parking apron for the carrier's rapidly expanding fleet. 

The carrier has not submitted any proposal to the Department of Transportation, given the response from the Aquino administration when a proposal was submitted last year by former Philippine Airlines chief Ramon Ang to construct a brand new airport near Manila Bay. 

Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya has consistently enforced the government's preference for an open bidding process in spite of the administration's inability to move any projects forward. The government's stance has deterred any other business groups from submitting similar proposals to help address the growing congestion problem at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the country's primary international gateway.

Meanwhile, Bautista stated that Philippine Airlines is open to support the government's plan for a possible NAIA Terminal 5. The possible construction of the new terminal is a stop-gap measure to address congestion at the airport complex, prior to the construction of a brand new international airport. But not all industry analysts believe that a fifth terminal will resolve congestion, citing the issue that the airport only has two runways, of which only one can be used at a time. The Transportation Department recently scrapped plans to construct a third runway in favour of constructing a fifth terminal, while attempting to improve the efficiency of the existing main runway.