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PAL to soar to greater heights – Tan

Tan inspects the business and economy class of the brand new Boeing 777. RUDY SANTOS

MANILA, Philippines – At 83, tycoon Lucio Tan isn’t about to slow down just yet.  Tan is planning for even bigger things for his airline, Philippine Airlines (PAL), which always has a special place in his heart.

Two years since regaining control of PAL from San Miguel Corp., Kapitan continues to pour in billions in the legacy airline so it can soar to even greater height and be the best it can be for the country and for generations of Filipinos.

At the historic Villamor Airbase in Pasay last week, PAL had its own history to make, launching its newest aircraft – a sleek Boeing 777-300-ER.

During the ceremony, Tan poignantly shared the humble story of a young bird named Xiaoliu, which was bullied by its siblings because it was too weak to fly.

Xiaoliu worked hard and woke up early so he could overcome his weaknesses.

“When winter came, the weakest among the birds was the first to fly,” Tan narrated.

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Everyone should take inspiration from Xiaoliu’s story, said the business magnate whose success story as a self-made tycoon is also every bit legendary.

“There is a Xiaoliu in all of us. But we must not let weakness, difficulty or hardship stop us from reaching our goals. The old Chinese saying that ‘weak birds have to start flying early’ is so relevant in our work here. PAL may not have the biggest number of airlines, nor the subsidies enjoyed by its bigger rivals, but if we dream big and work hard together, we can soar to the future like Xiaoliu,” Kapitan said, drawing applause from the crowd of VIPs, government officials, frequent flyers and journalists who graced the momentous ceremony.

Indeed, Xiaoliu’s story is a fitting metaphor to PAL’s journey from a once troubled airline into a profitable company.

The airline company is very much back in the game and flapping its wings like it’s never done before. PAL booked a comprehensive income of $134.42 million last year, up 560 percent.

“We’re happy and proud to welcome the newest member of the PAL family — our seventh Boeing 777 aircraft,” Tan said.

And there will be more, he said enthusiastically. The arrival of the new aircraft is just in time for the coming Christmas season. The next 777 will be delivered a few weeks from now or by early December, Tan announced.

“These planes are proof of my commitment and full support to Philippine Airlines. As promised, we continue to invest billions of pesos to make PAL truly a world-class five-star airline,” Tan said.

Referring to the Boeing 777-300-ER, Tan said the aircraft costs more than $250 million or nearly P10 billion.

“Take good care of it and use it well to serve passengers and our country,” Tan said.

But then an airline isn’t just about airplanes, he reminded his PAL family.

“In large measure, it’s about people — pilots, cabin crew and ground staff who work hard — day and night to make sure that passengers and cargo reach their destination safely and on time,” Tan said.

PAL president and COO Jaime Bautista said the new Boeing 777s would enable PAL to increase its flights to North America.

“With additional seats come additional capacity which now enables PAL to increase frequencies on its transpacific flights to the US Mainland and Canada. Our passengers can now choose from a wider variety of schedules and at the same time, experience service with the heart of the Filipino,” Bautista said.

By December this year, PAL will start operating double daily flights between Manila and Los Angeles from the current 10 weekly flights, allowing passengers to choose between morning and evening flights. Flights between Manila and Vancouver will increase from seven to 10 weekly, while flights between Manila and Toronto will increase from three to four weekly.

The new acquisitions, PAL said, are part of the airline’s fleet modernization program, which together with the route network expansion and service innovations is in line with PAL’s vision to be a five-star, full service national carrier to the Philippines.

The Boeing 777-300-ER is the largest long-range twin-engine commercial airplane in the world and extends the 777 family’s span of capabilities with twin-engine efficiency and with the industry’s highest reliability for the long-range markets.

It has a seating capacity of 370 passengers or 42 in Business Class and 328 in Economy.  The new aircraft will introduce new and modern amenities such as myPAL Entertainment system.

In all, the PAL Group will have 80 planes by the end of the year.

Indeed, PAL, like Xiaoliu, is now much more ready for the world than it has ever been.

As it marks its 75th year, it is ready to fly even higher and up, up it goes.

And rightly so. The airline, after all, has no less than Kapitan, its captain and commander, as the steady wind beneath its wide, wide wings.

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