DAVAO CITY—The country’s flag carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL), has broadened its wings as it soars to new heights in terms of fresh routes and acquisition of additional aircraft.
PAL President and COO Jaime J. Bautista said at the Marco Polo Hotel here over the weekend that the airline company has decided to make its announcement in this southern city because it is no longer “just a Manila-centric airline.”
He added “the future of Philippine aviation lies in the new economic centers of the country, here in Mindanao, in the Visayas and in other parts of Luzon” as it vowed to strengthen its hub at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga, Mactan-Cebu International Airport in the Visayas and at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport here.
“New hubs mean new hopes for a growing economy,” he said.
Bautista added the fleet expansion is geared as “Philippine Airlines bids to become a full-fledged player in the global aviation industry.”
Bautista also announced PAL’s recognition as a four-star airline by Skytrax, a prestigious United Kingdom-based consultancy, which runs an airline and airport review and ranking site.
“We are proud and gratified that Philippine Airlines recently achieved a 4-Star Global Airline Certification by Skytrax. This four-star rating was the fruit of two years of transformation in fleet, cabins, products and services that demanded millions of dollars in hard investments and the concerted efforts of all members of the PAL organization,” Bautista said.
As the top-to-bottom transformation continues, Bautista added more and more route and fleet expansion will focus on PAL’s hubs in Cebu, Clark and Davao.
Last month, in time for Holy Week, Bautista said PAL opened a link from Davao to Siargao, a fast-rising destination for surfers and adventure seekers.
Siargao joins Tagbilaran, Zamboanga, Manila, Clark and Cebu as destinations that the airline now serves from Davao.
“We are now increasing our Davao-Bohol flights to daily, and we plan to increase Davao-Clark flights in the coming months,” he said.
“Clark is the newest jewel in our crown,” Bautista said. “Just 15 months ago, we had no flights out of Clark at all. Today, we fly to 15 local and international destinations out of Clark, the greatest number of flights and routes operated by any airline.”
“Later this month, we will be adding flights from Clark to Busuanga and Cebu, and we are looking at daily Clark to Cagayan de Oro later on, so that we can better serve Mindanao’s second tourism growth center,” he added.
PAL’s Cebu hub includes direct flights to 16 domestic and seven international points. From Tagbilaran, PAL is the only carrier flying nonstop to South Korea, placing Bohol firmly in the global map for leisure tourism, Bautista said.
To compensate for the impending closure of Boracay, Bautista said PAL will increase flights to different vacation destinations throughout the country.
“We expect the Visayas, Mindanao and Palawan to benefit as we redirect more flights from China, Korea and Taiwan to Cebu and Puerto Princesa, with some traffic flowing on to Siargao, Camiguin, Coron and Butuan,” he said.
“More routes will open as we take delivery of new airplanes,” he added.
Bautista said PAL’s current fleet of 85 aircraft is already the largest in the Philippines.
“We are aiming for 100 aircraft by 2020, which places us in the league of a major carrier. But we are not merely adding more planes; we are constantly upgrading the cabins, seats, amenities, inflight entertainment and technology,” he added.
Last year PAL introduced the Next-Generation Bombardier Q400 turboprop that is powering the airline’s domestic hub expansion to island resorts. Bautista announced that five new Q400s will arrive this year.
“Last year PAL started converting Airbus A330s from a 414-seat high-density configuration to a premium-quality airplane with just 309 seats and all-new Business Class, Premium Economy and upgraded Economy cabins,” he said.