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PAL returns to Europe via London Nov. 4

MANILA, Philippines - National flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is set to return to Europe after a 15-year hiatus by mounting direct flights to London starting November.

PAL is flying directly to the Heathrow Airport five times a week starting Nov. 4 using Boeing 777-300ER.

The national flag carrier earlier sought a green light from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to impose a $170 fuel surcharge on its international operations from Manila to any country in Europe.

No less than PAL president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang announced last July 10 that the national flag carrier is preparing for the much awaited return to popular European destinations as London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rome, and Madrid.

Last July 12, the European Union lifted the ban imposed in 2010 after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) addressed major safety concerns raised by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

In March of 2010, the 27-member European Commission imposed a ban on Philippine carriers from European airspace for the failure of CAAP to reform the country’s civil aviation system.

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In 2008, the safety rating of the Philippines was downgraded by the US FAA upon the recommendation of ICAO to Category 2 from Category 1 after CAAP failed to comply with safety standards for the oversight of air carrier operations.

ICAO lifted the remaining significant security concerns after the Philippines through the CAAP passed the audit conducted from Feb. 18 to Feb. 22, paving the way for the series of upgrades.

PAL senior vice president for operations Ismael Augusto Gozon earlier said the airline is looking at mounting direct flights to two European countries within the year. “We will fly to two European destinations before the end of the year,” Gozon said.

PAL is in the middle of a major refleeting program with an end view of acquiring 100 new aircraft. It has entered into a $9.5 billion contract with the EADS Group for the delivery of 65 aircraft.

PAL entered into a $7 billion deal for the acquisition of 45 A321 and 10 A330-300 last August and exercised an option to acquire 10 more A330-300 worth $2.5 billion last September.

PAL has received two A321-200 last August and expects the delivery of its first A330-300 in the last week of September. In all, PAL would take the delivery of 12 aircraft this year, 17 next year, 10 in 2016, two in 2017, four in 2018, and four in 2019.

PAL is focusing on regional and international destinations as it expanded its code sharing arrangement with affiliate PAL Express (formerly Airphil Express) to cover all domestic routes except Cebu, Kalibo and Davao.

PAL has a fleet of 48 aircraft composed of five Boeing 777-30ER, five Boeing 747-400, six A340-300, eight A330-300, 18 A320-200, four A319-100, and two A321-200 while PAL Express has a fleet of 14 A320, four Bombardier Q300 and four Q400.

SMC through San Miguel Equity Investments Inc. controls about 49 percent of Trustmark Holdings of PAL after infusing $500 million in April of 2012. Trustmark and affiliate Zuma Holdings own PAL Holdings and sister airline AirPhil Express.



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