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PAL’s PAL Express starts flights to Batanes

MANILA, Philippines - National flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), jointly owned by taipan Lucio Tan and diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), is kicking off its aggressive expansion of the vast route network starting today.

PAL through PAL Express is flying to Basco, Batanes three times a week using the 76-seater Bombardier Q400 turboprop starting today out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.

Batanes, the country’s northernmost group of islands with six barangays, has attracted local and foreign tourists due to the islands’ pristine and rugged terrain as well as the gentleness of native residents, the Ivatans.

On top of the new domestic destination, PAL announced last week new international routes including Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on May 2; Darwin, Brisbane and Perth in Australia on June 1; Guangzhou in China on June 2; Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on Oct. 1; Doha in Qatar on Nov. 1; Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam in Saudi Arabia on Dec. 1; and Dubai in the UAE on Nov. 1.

PAL president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang said the airline is undertaking an aggressive expansion program on the back of the Philippines’ robust economy, recent credit rating upgrade, exciting tourist destinations and the country’s geographical advantage as a jump off point to many Asian cities.

With the wider route network, Ang said foreign tourists and business travelers could fly to Manila, enjoy the Philippines for a few days, or connect directly to PAL’s other Asian, Australian and North American destinations.

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PAL’s current network, operated with PAL Express, consists of 32 domestic and 28 international points.

Since the entry of SMC, PAL has embarked on a massive refleeting program aimed at acquiring 100 new aircraft to replace its existing fleet. To date, PAL has a fleet of 42 aircraft consisting of five Boeing B747-400s and four B777-300ERs as well as four Airbus A340-300s, eight A330-300s, 17 A320-200s, and four A319-100s.

PAL entered into a $7 billion contract with EADS Group in August last year for the acquisition of 54 Airbus aircraft consisting of 34 A321ceo, 10 A321neo, and 10 A330-300s and another $2.5 billion to exercise an option to acquire 10 more A330 aircraft last September.

It is set to acquire four new Airbus A340-300 aircraft in preparation for its expansion to Europe.

Ang said PAL would likely accept the delivery of 21 new aircraft this year that would boost its $1.7 billion revenues for its fiscal year ending March 31 by as much as 25 percent.

“With the arrival of the additional 21 aircraft this year, we believe our sales revenues should increase by at least 25 percent,” he stressed.

The PAL chief executive said the airline is confident that it would return to profitability next year after cutting its losses by half this year as the new fuel efficient aircraft would translate to lower fuel as well as operating and maintenance costs.

Just like the Aquino administration, Ang is confident that the ban imposed by Europe and the US preventing local airlines from flying and mounting additional long haul flights would finally be lifted within the year.

Representatives from the US Federal Aviation Authority (US FAA) and the European Union are expected to visit the Philippines within the next two months to look into the country’s aviation safety standards.

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