Philippine Airlines Denies Plans to Axe London Route, KLM Mulling Resumption of Nonstop Flights

Flights between Europe and the Philippines may be turning a corner as senior officials from two major airline groups have ruled out a reduction in service for at least the time being.

Image Source: Wikimedia
Philippine Airlines (PAL) President Jaime Bautista ended rumours that the national flag carrier was axing their sole flight between Manila and Europe. At present, PAL flies between Manila and London four times a week using an Airbus A340-300 (A343). Bautista cited improving business conditions, particularly more favourable fuel prices, and a better flight schedule, as the main reasons for continuing service to London.

When the London service was originally launched, it operated five times a week using a Boeing 777-300ER. However, the service was since downgraded to an A343 as the 777 aircrafts were reallocated to the company's flagship routes to the United States. Unlike the 777, the A343 does not feature its own individual in-flight entertainment (IFE) system in economy class. Passengers seated in economy must request an iPad for the approximately 14-hour long journey.

Meanwhile, European carrier KLM is considering the resumption of non-stop flights between Manila and Amsterdam. Patrick Roux, KLM Vice President for Asia-Pacific said that restoring direct flights would be possible if market conditions continue to improve in the Philippines. Roux says the group is also eyeing the possibility of selling tickets between Manila and Taipei. However, such an arrangement is currently not possible under existing air service agreements.

Roux also revealed that the Air France-KLM Group is mulling the possibility of restoring Air France flights to the Philippines. Air France last flew to the Philippines in 2004 but discontinued flights after it merged to form the Air France-KLM group.

KLM Boeing 777-200ER
Image Source: Wikimedia
KLM originally flew to the Philippines non-stop from Amsterdam in 2004, but downgraded its Manila service to a one-stop service via Taipei in 2012. The move was allegedly prompted by the Philippine government's previous reluctance to scrap the Common Carrier Tax (CCT).

The CCT had been levied by the Philippine government on foreign carriers based on the airfare charged and distance flown between the Philippines and the onward destination. The charge was eventually dropped. But analysts suggest that intense competition from Gulf Carriers may have also played a role in KLM's decision to cease non-stop service.

If Air France or KLM were to restore non-stop flights to Europe, they would no longer be the sole European carriers operating in the Philippines. Last March 15, Turkish Airlines began non-stop flights between Istanbul and Manila. 

Turkish Airlines, which is one of the world's top-rated airlines by Skytrax, currently operates three flights weekly to Manila with an A343. However, the carrier is considering upgrading the flights to a Boeing 777-300ER next year. Istanbul is not only a popular destination among travellers, but also an increasingly popular connecting point between Europe and Asia given its geographical location.

Sources: Inquirer, Philippine Star

40 comments:

  1. Then i realized the importance of non stop flight

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  2. Tourists alone will not be able to sustain direct flights between Manila and major cities in Europe.

    We need economic improvements so that businesses from both ends will have reason to travel and fill in the seats of these flights with high yield passengers...may it be business class seats or fully flexible economy fare.

    I think the Philippines is not yet there, but on its way, to that point.

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  3. PR has poor marketing & sales strategies.

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    1. Correct. LT should axe their VP Marketing and sales instead, very outdated strategies, cannot compete in the global market. Well, this is an airlne industry. Am i missing something? Flying to different countries means competing globally. Hello?

      Delete
  4. PR has to improve on so many things. They have to stop using fuel inefficient planes like the A340. A good marketing and sales strategy would help. But still kudos to PR for its expansion and development in the last two years. We are getting there.

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  5. Hi im working at pal. our MNL_LHR (pr720) has a load factor averaging 85-90% and LHR-MNL (pr721) with 80-85%. quite impressive.



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    1. If you are working with PAL, are you planning to bring back the B77W to LHR? People don't like flying on your A340 and i can honestly say that.

      Delete
    2. why is there a rumor that this route will be axed if the load factor is 85%, enough to be a profitable route?

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    3. Not too hard to fill a flight with cheap fares and service four times a week. Full or not - the real question is, does the route make money and is it sustainable long term?

      Interesting point on KLM's service-if they are looking to reinstate nonstop service, then why are they trying to obtain local traffic rights to Taipei?

      Delete
    4. The rumors that PAL was going to drop London were not without merit: in a newspaper (I can't remember if it was the Star or the Inquirer), Bautista admitted that he pushed PAL's staff to improve their performance on the London route, otherwise it would indeed be axed. The load factors were now at a respectable 70+%, and while Bautista said the route was still in the red (presumably because they're using inefficient A340s), cheaper fuel prices and improving load factors were enough to convince them to continue going. Hopefully, if the rumors that PAL will get two extra 777-300ERs later this year, they can use them on the London route. That way, service will improve, and the route could finally become profitable.

      As for KLM, perhaps the plan to restore long-haul service is a long-term plan, instead the short-term plan is that they are aiming to obtain pick-up rights at Taipei. That, or they've changed their mind and they're now aiming to resume their direct service.

      Delete
    5. Bautista is right to push his employees to do better.....it is a service business anyway.
      The problem is to obtain business and loyalty of Pinoys in Europe and to "cement" such loyalty thru good inflight service, amenities and after-service follow ups like promotions, discounts, etc. Airline competition is another hurdle to PAL's success. You can do it, PAL!

      Delete
    6. LHR is a nightmare route without connecting traffic capabilities. With the connectivity problem on the MNL side, perhaps there is hope. They may want to consider another connecting point in Europe (AMS, FRA, ROM) where they can benefit from a strong partner and a robust network. Going it alone in Heathrow is a tough battle.

      Delete
    7. ^^
      This is where Turkish Airlines has an advantage. In fact, it can be tagged as the best of both worlds:
      a) it is a European carrier serving the Philippines and the European continent nonstop
      b) it relatively has the geographical advantage that EK/EY/QR enjoys

      Delete
  6. The gov't has work hand in hand with airlines expansion plans. Europeans don't come here for balut. They've come for the sun, sand and sea. Unfortunately most local airports are ill equipped with navaids, terminals, slots, etc.etc and most importantly, and a sincere will to deliver a pleasant tourist experience. Its easy to blame the airline without looking at the bigger picture. A common occurrence for example MNL-LHR-PPS. Flights to PPS are very tight. Once sunset limitation looms flights get cancelled or worse return to MNL. Equip the airports.
    My 2 cents.

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    Replies
    1. Exactly - locals think it's funny when foreigners have to walk to the airport because no one can be bothered to control the traffic. Guess what - they don't come back. Instead of over-regulating air travel, why don't you start thinking of ways to increase traffic to help airlines offer more service. More passengers and revenue (larger pie) would help CebuPac, PAL and the nation immensely.

      Delete
  7. In sum, airlines of third world countries continue to be 3-stars. It's very obvious!
    Admit it and hope for the best!

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  8. I'm honestly surprised at how LT and company are running PAL now. In the past they mismanaged the airline to the brink, but after taking control of the airline from Ang, at least for now it seems that they have learned their lessons and future prospects seem to be improving for PAL. Well, after the even-worse tenure of Ang where PAL became a laughing stock of a flag carrier, it seems there is nowhere to go but up.

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    Replies
    1. All Ramon Ang did was clean up house at PAL, but at the same time fucked up PAL's image by branding themselves as a Hybrid-carrier. Look at the A321 and A330s that they have. No IFEs, cramped space.

      With LT and JJB back in full control, they are undoing their mistakes from their horrid past and the Ramon Ang management. There isn't a huge improvement with PAL (yet), but give it a few more years.

      Delete
    2. I think LT and group cleaned PR up when they were able to do spin off of some on their ancillary services which also make it attractive to other investors (eventually SMC).

      Ang made some investments thru fleet expansion which seems illogical and cutting the regional hubs bleeding local market share to the competitor and has been heading in a different direction.

      The developments with PR is very encouraging now and the direction it's treading with JB at the helm and with recent expansions in network locally and internationally, I hope they could claim more market share and lead up in PH and compete head on with 5J in terms of service and quality.

      Delete
    3. Why does PAL hope to compete head on with 5J when PAL is not a LCC. Something is still wrong with PAL if that is their thinking.

      Delete
    4. Anon May 26, 2015 at 9:26 AM

      Again, that was Ramon Ang's idea not LT. Even before Ramon Ang took partial control of PAL, did you see them configure their planes like sardines? Example. PAL's old A330. Configured as 2-3-2 in Economy. PAL's new A330 (brought to you by San Miguel Corporation) is configured in 3-3-3.

      Hmmmm.... Where can we see a configuration like that? That's right... An LCC carrier like Cebu Pacific.

      Jaime Bautista is even returning these excessive A330s because there is no desire for that kind of configuration.

      Delete
    5. @ Anon May 26, 2015 at 9:26 AM

      Even 5J is a LCC, PR needs to compete with market share as this means revenue and its straight forward. How they will do it, is a different story and this is how PR should differentiate themselves versus 5J.

      Delete
    6. PR has to be competitive in the domestic, regional and international market. In short PR has to look at ALL its competitors in all dimension including 5J and all other competitor airlines.

      Delete
  9. What I saw here is a wakeup call for the previous management on what they should have done prior to the SMC purchase. At least by now they know what they had done wrong in the past, and come out better and stronger for us Filipino to be proud on.

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. LT was jolted out of his wits when SMC took over because SMC took so little a time to solve a problem that is PAL. Why PAL is doing good now is because PAL is adopting 70% of the blueprint laid down by SMC. That's the truth even if LT will not admit it.

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    1. So their plan (SMC) was to turn PAL into a hybrid-carrier? No wonder why Lucio Tan bought out RSA because PAL has always been a Full Service Carrier.

      Those excessive plane orders. Where are they going to park them? Where are they going to fly these planes to? Ramon Ang kept ordering planes without thinking where to park and fly these planes. NAIA is congested as it is. Cebu, well... Is there any demand for it?

      The A340s. You and i know that both Ramon Ang and Lucio Tan are to blame here for even thinking about ordering this aircraft. Now? PAL is facing the consequence of low-pax, operation costs, and especially costly maintenance due to it's age.

      I don't care if PH was still at Category 2 at the time, but the money spent for these A340s would been put to use by ordering more B77Ws or even ordering the B787 or A350. If they ordered em' before, by now they should be flying with the PAL livery.

      Delete
  12. PAL was already a hybrid carrier because of PAL Express even before SMC stepped into PAL. It was actually LT who turned PAL into a hybrid carrier.

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    1. Are you saying the SQ is a hybrid carrier because its has MI, TZ and TR?

      You should take note that they are distinct carriers and different brand, not until Ang unified the branding for both, confusing the public.

      Every mainline carrier now is augmenting with LCC subsidiaries to increase their competitiveness and also not lose market share with standalone LCC's. And that doesn't make the mainline a hybrid carrier.

      Delete
  13. Even before SMC stepped into PAL, there was already 2P and PR. I know this because I sometimes take 2P before SMC. It was LT who transitioned PAL into a hybrid carrier and caused confusion to even SMC.

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  14. To summarize this whole thing, London is a very tough market for airline business where you can find a dozen or more 3 to 5-star airlines serving the route to Manila! Filipino passengers are so sophisticated that they know what they are flying with, compared with Thais for TG, Taiwanese for Eva Air, Singaporeans for SQ, etc., etc. That's the handicap of PAL....

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    1. Exactly, Pinoy or not, I will fly a brand new A380 with Emirates, SQ, KE and Asiana to Manila(from Europe). Making connections in their hub cities does not bother me at all as long as I am happy, well-fed and entertained (IFE) and ultimately safer as I know their planes are new or constantly maintained. Too bad for PAL, I am now a senior citizen who need a lot of things and support; and my needs can be sustained only by the above-named carriers. I still love PAL, though............

      Delete
  15. The European market will be tough for PAL to hang onto, even if it offers non-stop service. Using those old A330's with second rate IFE is not the way to attract customers in a competitive market. And the competition is stiff with newer planes, better service, and darn good in flight entertainment.
    To compete, you have to be ready to compete. Offering a Filipino dish or two won't hack it even if I like it. I want comfort and reliability.

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  16. PAL's resumption of European routes will be a challenge and demands logistics and intense planning. The reintroduction of LHR had suffered drawbacks with dismal load during it's maiden year and are now reaping the benefits of increased load factors. Initially, PR flights had to traversed India and the Middle East onto Europe with a longer travel time. When PAL was granted to overfly the Russian airspace, the travel time was shortened to 14 hours nonstop and saving fuel as well. I think the next move PAL is aiming for will be the prime morning arrival slots at LHR. Or maybe they can resume LGW morning arrivals if they want to as they did during the 80's and 90's.

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  17. i have used the London to Manila journey PAL offers quite often in the past, but no more, firstly because they have hiked their price up by over £200 for this journey, and second is because of the sub standard planes they use to London, i honestly feel it's only a matter of time before one of the ageing planes they use for this route crashes... Carl Roberts

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