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PAL forms $500-M aircraft leasing company

MANILA, Philippines - Diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) is infusing $500 million to establish an aircraft leasing company that would take charge of the ongoing re-fleeting program of national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL).

SMC and PAL president Ramon S. Ang said in an interview during the launching of direct flights between the Philippines and London yesterday that the additional investments would be on top of the $500 million spent by the diversified conglomerate to acquire a 49-percent stake in PAL last year.

Ang said the aircraft leasing firm would be wholly-owned by PAL.

In April last year, SMC through San Miguel Equity Investments Inc. invested $500 million to acquire a 49-percent stake in PAL. Trustmark Holdings and affiliate Zuma Holdings own PAL Holdings and sister airline PAL Express.

Ang said the airline is in the middle of a re-fleeting program aimed at acquiring 100 new aircraft to turn PAL around. The flag carrier has been suffering heavy losses due to higher maintenance and operating costs.

Ang said PAL has acquired 71 Airbus aircraft consisting of 20 A330, 45 A321, and six A340.

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PAL yesterday announced that it would fly direct to London five times a week starting Nov. 4.

Ang said PAL is looking at flying to Amsterdam and Rome after mounting direct flights to London.

Ang made the announcement during a press conference with visiting British Minister of State for Trade and Investment Lord Stephen Green of Hurstpierpoint.

“We’re very happy that London is PAL’s first Europe destination since flights to that continent were discontinued in 1998,” Ang said.

“I’m delighted to celebrate a very concrete example of the growing ties between our two countries, that being the reestablishment by Philippine Airlines of direct flights between Manila and London for the first time in over a decade. I am confident that these flights will greatly enhance the relationship between the UK and the Philippines,” Lord Green said.

PAL will fly five times a week departing Manila in the morning and arriving at Terminal 4 of Heathrow airport in London, the premier gateway to the United Kingdom and the world’s busiest international airport.

“That we have been given permission to fly to Heathrow makes our return much more meaningful ... We take this as a strong vote of confidence by UK authorities in PAL’s ability to bring in the passenger traffic volume worthy of the world’s top airlines,” Ang added.



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