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Philippine Airlines' new B777-300ERs to boost operations

8 Dec 2009

Philippine Airlines (PAL) will be using its new Boeing B777-300ER on the Manila-Narita route on January 12, followed by the Sydney and Melbourne routes on January 25, 2010.

PAL took delivery of the aircraft last month, a year later than expected due to the Boeing industrial strike in 2008. It is the first of six leased by PAL from GE Capital. A second will join its fleet on January 20, 2010. Low market demand has necessitated a deferment of the four other deliveries until 2012.

PAL’s latest acquisition, according to its president and COO, Jaime Bautista, will help reinstate services to destinations such as Brisbane which starts on March 16 after a hiatus of 10 years. The airline stopped flying to Brisbane in 1999 when the company downsized operations. It is also considering flying again to Riyadh, which it left in 2006, citing formidable competition from the Middle East carriers.

But the market where PAL is really itching to expand is in North America, where thousands of Filipino immigrants – known as balikbayans – and their families reside. Currently, the airline mounts 10  weekly flights to Los Angeles, eight weekly flights to San Francisco and seven weekly flights to Vancouver, from where it flies five times weekly to Las Vegas. Away from continental USA, Honolulu, which also boasts a sizeable Filipino community, receives three flights weekly.

PAL is the only Philippine carrier flying to the US at the moment.

But any expansion on the mainland will have to wait until the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reverts the Philippines’ standing from category 2 to category 1. The downgrade was announced in 2008 after FAA found that the Philippine Air Transportation Office did not meet safety standards.

This has meant PAL has not been able to increase flights to US territories from its present 33 per week to an unlimited frequency under category 1. Bautista told Business Traveller: “We can’t add destinations, and we can’t even add to new aircraft to the list of aircraft that we are using to fly to the US now.”

He said the government had promised to improve and was working on raising standards to suit FAA regulations. He estimated the situation would clear up in the last quarter of 2010.

PAL’s new B777-300ERs features Business Class with 42 lie-flat seats in a 2-3-2 configuration and personal monitors, while Economy Class is outfitted with 328 seats in a 3-4-3 configuration with seatback personal monitors. All seats are equipped with an AVOD entertainment system. The airline has also completely refurbished four B747s.

For more on Philippine Airlines, visit www.philippineair.com

Margie T Logarta

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