PAL targets 5-star status in 5 years

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - March 15, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) aims to transform into a five-star airline in five years following an aggressive route network expansion, fleet modernization and service innovation program.

“Getting the five-star is not easy but we think we can do that in five years. For us to be able to do that, we need to improve service, from passengers’ booking to getting their baggage after the flight. Our objective is to give passenger experience that will exceed their expectations,” PAL president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista said.

PAL is currently ranked a three-star airline by UK-based aviation consultancy Skytrax. It aims to be with the likes of Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways and Garuda Indonesia, among others, that are ranked five-star carriers.

Bautista is hopeful with the innovations PAL undertook last year, it will gain the four-star rank next year as Skytrax is set to conduct another audit.

He said securing the five-star rating does not really need strategic investors from foreign equity partners but the four-star rating in 2017 would boost the carrier’s presence with other global players.

“The desire is there to have strategic partners although right now, we have not been very active in working on it. But if we get the four-star in 2017, we will be more attractive to foreign investors,” he added.

Although no specific amount has been allocated yet for the program towards the five-star rating, Bautista said PAL will primarily invest on in-flight technology and reconfiguration of its aircraft.

PAL has existing 15 Airbus A330s that have to be reconfigured to pass the rating, eight of which are 414 economy seats while the remaining seven has 368 seats.

“The plan is to reconfigure them to around 311 seats to make it more comfortable for passengers and it would entail a huge amount of investment, more or less $10 million per plane to reconfigure,” Bautista said.

As for PAL’s route expansion, it is assessing four new destinations in Europe namely Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg and Rome. PAL only flies to one European destination, London.

Coinciding with its 75th anniversary, PAL launched its first Cebu-Los Angeles flight and will operate thrice weekly non-stop services. It will also launch Manila-Doha route on March 28 and Manila-Saipan on June 15.

Due to congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Bautista said PAL is also in the process of evaluating possible operations out of Clark.

“We are considering Clark as another hub for PAL. Our corporate planning department is working on it and as soon as studies are finalized and flights are scheduled, we will announce it,” he added.

Meanwhile, PAL is scheduled to take delivery of five A321s and two Boeing B777s this year. It is also adding six Airbus 350-900s, bringing its fleet to 75 aircraft.

“This will strengthen our long-range fleet. Once delivery begins in 2018, the aircraft can be deployed on our North American destinations. The acquisition will enable us to mount additional non-stop flights on our long-haul services,” Bautista said.

Moreover, PAL is looking at approximately 14 million passengers for 2016, up 17 percent from the 12 million it flew last year, and load factor of 75 percent on the back of more aggressive marketing strategies.

PAL services 30 domestic and 43 international destinations with 75 aircraft in its fleet. As it continues its expansions, the airline targets to hire at least 300 cabin crew and 100 pilots for 2016 to add to its existing 5,500 employees. – With Rudy Santos

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