JAPAN’S northernmost island, Hokkaido, is now accessible to Filipinos as four-star Philippine Airlines (PAL) mounts its sixth flight to Japan, using its brand-new A321neo.
The flight will leave Manila at 4:50 a.m. to catch all connecting flights from the provinces. The plane touches down at Chitose Airport at about lunchtime, starting September 10, 2018.
PAL President and COO Jaime J. Bautista said the six-hour flight to Chitose could be had for $399 round trip. This is the airline’s one-day special offer that would start at 12 midnight and ends at 11:59 on July 6 and available on the Internet, travel agencies and the carriers ticketing office.
The 168-seater Airbus A321neo has 12 seats in business class and 156 seats in economy class. The business-class cabin boasts generous seat pitch (legroom) of 60 inches and seats that are up to 23 inches wide and recline to become full flat beds, measuring 78 inches in length. The economy cabins offer ample stretching room with a seat pitch of 32 inches.
Ismael Augusto Gozon, senior vice president of Operations Group, PAL Holdings Inc., said Hokkaido is Japan’s “winter capital and dream destination.” It is about an hour by bus from the city of Sapporo, 15 minutes by train and 60 minutes by water service.
“The new Chitose Airport is the fifth-busiest airport in Japan and last year, it had 21 million passengers,” he added.
Sapporo is the second new longer-range route served by the A321neo aircraft, after the Manila-Brisbane route (since July 2, 2018). PAL was the first airline in the world to fly an Airbus neo aircraft in Australia.
PAL is aggressively mounting more regional and international flights with its acquisition of 21 new planes, including next-generation Airbus A350-900XWBs and A321 neos. This year the four-star carrier will take delivery of four A350, which would initially fly to regional destinations so that pilots would be able to familiarize themselves with their new plane.
On October 28 PAL will replace its B777, now currently flying to Vancouver, Canada, with the A350.
In 2019, the legacy carrier will mount its A3500 for international flights to Seattle, Chicago and Houston.
“Flights to Moscow and Paris are still being studied,” said Ryan Uy, VP for Sales. Bautista said the new airplanes would cement PAL’s hold on their international, regional and domestic market, which is necessary on the way to attain their goal of a five-star airline in 2020.
He said the current 85 fleet would be boosted to at least 100 planes in to put PAL “in the category of a major carrier.”
PAL is touting the A321neo’s comfort and improved cabin configuration, “which is crucial for the passenger’s satisfaction.”
“But we are not merely adding more planes. We are constantly upgrading the cabins, seats, amenities, inflight entertainment and technology,” he said.
The carrier’s other destinations in Japan include Narita, Haneda, Fukouka and Osaka and Nagoya.
Last year half a million Filipinos visited Japan, while 580,000 Japanese arrivals in the country were recorded by the tourism department.
Japan is the Philippines fourth source of tourists.