European Ambassador Supports Direct Flights to Europe

In an opinion column published in the Philippine Star, Guy Ledoux, the Ambassador to the European Union, voiced his support for the planned expansion of Philippine Airlines into Europe which would see the introduction of new direct services from Manila to major centres in Europe including London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome. His comments come at a time that many industry analysts are questioning if PAL's European expansion plans may be overly ambitious.

"One month ago, I took the plane for Brussels to attend the EU-Philippines Senior Official meeting. As I was in the check line, I learned that the computer system of the airline I was using had broken down and the checking was done by hand. We were back in the old age where the airline attendant was writing your name and seat number by hand on your boarding pass. Inevitably the boarding time was delayed by 2 hours. When I was finally comfortably seated in the plane a very strong storm hit the airport and we had to wait another two hours for the weather to improve so that we could take off. Of course with that sort of delay, I missed my connecting flight and instead of arriving at 7 a.m. in Brussels I arrived at 6 p.m. I must emphasise that the delay was not related to the airport nor to the local staff. These sorts of situations happen. I was however upset that I could not enjoy the short break I had planned which included the visit of the newly renovated Rijks museum of Amsterdam. 
 In our modern world, travellers, whether for business or leisure, expect airlines to be on time. When it is for business, a late arrival might result in an important meeting with a customer missed. When it is for leisure, time is also precious and one prefers to spend a few hours more on the beach than in a cramped airplane parked on the tarmac. 
 The lifting of the EU air ban for Philippines Airlines on 10 July opening the door for direct flights to Europe is significant in today’s world where time is precious. The re-introduction of direct flights will bring the travel time between Manila and Paris or Manila and London from around 17:00 h to 12:00 h. Businessmen and tourists will appreciate the absence of connecting flights with all the related inconvenience such as transit time, transit formalities and risk of losing luggage. 
 The Philippine government considers tourism one of its key growth industries that should contribute to providing much needed jobs. The beauty of Philippine beaches and diving opportunities undoubtedly represent a key comparative advantage for the Philippines. In 2012, European tourist arrivals in the Philippines were up 10%, with 349,000 visitors, despite the absence of direct flights. Direct connections will provide a strong additional incentive for European tourists to visit the Philippines. 
 The lifting of the air ban, starting with the national flag carrier, demonstrates that the Philippine government is following a steady path of reforms. Having identified tourism as a growth industry it concentrates its efforts on progressively eliminating all bottlenecks affecting the sector. By renewing its fleet with an order of 67 new planes from Airbus, Philippine Airlines will offer its customers attractive direct flights from Europe and local investors are building new hotel facilities showing that the private sector is following suit. These combined efforts will definitely validate the department of tourism’s slogan: Its more fun in the Philippines."
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