By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines will mount more chartered flights this year, mostly catering to the Chinese market, which now accounts for 20 percent of its total passenger load.
Antonio D. Herrera, PAL Assistant Vice-President for passenger sales, revealed at the press launch for the 25th Travel Tour Expo to be held on Feb. 8-11 at the SMX Convention Center that they will be conducting very aggressive chartered flights in China and other countries, including EU.
At present, PAL has direct flights from China to Kalibo for Boracay, Palawan and Bohol. But there have been feelers for more unscheduled flights from smaller cities in China.
“We will continue to other points because the Chinese want to explore other areas and we are open as we promote our Clark domestic hub,” said Herrera. Other countries that are sending feelers for unscheduled flights include Korea, the country’s number one tourists source, and Russia in Europe.
PAL has started chartered flights a few years ago, and this business, although still small compared to its overall load, is growing significantly. The flag carrier is now looking at double digit growth.
Chartered flight is also a way to develop a market before they could launch a commercial scheduled flight. At present, PAL flies daily to Xiamen, Shanghai, Beijing and Chongqing. The Lucio Tan-owned legacy airline is also planning to add more direct flights to Chinese cities.
PAL Senior VP for passenger sales Genero “Bong” Velasquez said that what is good with China is that it is mostly inbound tourists unlike the Middle East flights, which are mostly carrying OFWs.
Velasquez said that PAL has adopted a very aggressive positioning in China because the world is looking at this market. There were an estimated over 100 million Chinese tourists travelling the world in 2017.
PAL also mounted chartered flights from Hokkaido, Japan last year and hopes to do 2-4 flights this year because Japan is another lucrative source of tourists.