By Emmie V. Abadilla
To achieve 5-star global rating, Philippine Airlines (PAL) is building up routes in its Davao, Cebu and Clark hubs with the scheduled arrival of 15 new aircraft this year plus six more aircraft in 2019.
Now an internationally-certified 4-Star airline, PAL announced a multi-hub expansion strategy to boost its domestic and international connections while increasing tourism and commerce nationwide.
Aside from adding new routes, the flag carrier is hiking flight frequencies as it accepts delivery of five additional Next-Generation Bombardier Q400s and six new Airbus A321neos starting May, 2018.
The following month, June, 2018, PAL will start taking delivery of four Airbus A350-900 trans-oceanic aircraft.
“We are no longer just a Manila-centric airline,” PAL President & and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Jaime J. Bautista pointed out during a recent press briefing in Davao City.
“Our new aircraft and hubs are a winning combination to expand our market reach both domestically and worldwide. This is imperative for a global airline and we must sustain and build on our hard-won 4-Star rating.”
“Our current fleet of 85 aircraft is already the largest in the Philippines, confirmed PAL President Bautista. We are aiming for 100 aircraft by 2020, which places us in the category of a major carrier.”
The PAL fleet buildup will continue until year 2024, providing valuable support to the airlines ultimate goal of 5-Star rating by Skytrax, the global airline rating organization.
In February, 2018, PAL was certified a 4-Star Global Airline after introducing various innovations and expanding its fleet and route network over a two-year period.
The Skytrax 4-Star certification was a third-party affirmation of PAL’s successful reassertion of its stature as a leading world-class airline.
PAL is the country’s first and only 4-Star airline, joining 42 other carriers such as British Airways, Emirates, KLM, Japan Airlines, Qantas, Thai, etc. also rated 4-Star.
‘PAL’s 2018 expansion includes Davao-Siargao, starting with four weekly flights from last March 25; Manila non-stop to New York (John F. Kennedy Airport) from October 28; Manila non-stop to New Delhi and Mumbai (Bombay) in India by last quarter of 2018; Manila to Sapporo (Chitose) in Japans northernmost island of Hokkaido, by last quarter of 2018.
The new routes to India are PAL’s response to Department of Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo’s call for a direct link to India, a potentially rich source of tourists for the Philippines.
PAL is also assessing the DOTs request to launch international routes directly from Davao International Airport, possibly to Bangkok or to Japan.
The DOT Secretary, a Davao resident, has long championed Mindanao as a prime destination for eco-tourism, adventure and cultural tourism experiences.
PAL is also increasing its flight frequencies to a number of routes.
In its Cebu-Siargao service, launched only last December, PAL will go twice daily by end of April. For its Davao-Tagbilaran service, PAL already increased its flights from four times weekly to daily since March 25.
For its Davao-Clark service, PAL will ramp up to daily flights later in 2018. It has increased its Cebu-Bangkok flights by 133% from thrice weekly to daily since March 25.
For Cagayan de Oro to Clark, the airline will fly daily later this year while increasing its Cebu-Busuanga (Coron) service from twice to three daily flights by April 26.
Clark-Busuanga (Coron) flights will likewise be increased from four to five daily flights by April 26 while Cebu-Clark will be upped from seven to ten weekly flights by April 28.
The flag carrier will also upgrade to wide-body A330 or A340 aircraft on more selected Manila-Cebu and Manila-Davao flights.
Furthermore, it will add frequencies between Manila and Dumaguete, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Cebu, Puerto Princesa and Bacolod, starting in April and May.
The airline will further boost international connectivity by offering convenient links in Cebu for passengers flying from Davao to Tokyo Narita, Beijing, Seoul and Bangkok.
There are also timely connections in Manila to destinations in Europe (London), the USA, Australia, Japan, the Middle East, China and various Asian countries.
Since late 2017, Davao and Cebu are just one stopover away from Toronto and Auckland for the first time, and the same is now true for Brisbane (since March 28) and later this year for New York, India and Hokkaido.
This is the result of PAL’s decision to eliminate stopovers and go nonstop on more and more international routes.
Some of the frequency increases, particularly from Manila, are designed to compensate for the impending closure of Boracay and to offer vacation travelers alternative holiday destinations.
To date, PAL is working with local and foreign government authorities to operate new or additional tourist-carrying flights from China, Korea and Taiwan to Puerto Princesa and Cebu, after the suspension of many flights from these countries to Kalibo.
The additional China-Cebu and Korea-Cebu flights will bring more tourists to Camiguin, Siargao, Coron, Bohol and Butuan, rather than exclusively to Cebu.
This is one positive multiplier effect of a PAL hub network centered on Cebu Mactan.
PAL currently flies to 16 domestic and seven international points from Cebu, 14 domestic and one international points from Clark, six domestic points from Davao, and one international destination (Seoul, Korea) from Tagbilaran.
Comprehensive marketing and sales studies are ongoing to introduce new destinations in Europe and the US mainland, including Chicago and Seattle.
Next year, PAL expects to add two more Next-Generation Q400s, two more A350s and two more A321neos to its fleet.