PAL resumes commercial flights to China

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Airlines (PAL) is set to become the first domestic carrier to restart commercial flights to mainland China, a destination that remains secluded from the world since the pandemic started in 2020.

In an advisory, PAL announced that it would restart scheduled flights to mainland China on Jan. 13, 2023, by reinstating Manila to Xiamen and vice versa in its international network.

PAL will operate one commercial flight to Xiamen every week, with the goal of building up frequencies over time as China begins to reopen its borders to leisure travel.

Flight PR 330 leaves the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 7:30 a.m. every Friday and arrives at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport two hours later. For the return trip, Flight PR 331 departs at 11:55 a.m. and lands in Manila at 2:30 p.m.

PAL said it would deploy an Airbus A330-300 to circle the Manila to Xiamen route. The wide-bodied aircraft that can run short-haul to long-range trips can transport up to 440 passengers.

PAL vice president for sales Bud Britanico said the airline owned by taipan Lucio Tan is working with Beijing in trying to resume commercial flights to Chinese cities that PAL used to service.

“The reopening of our Manila-Xiamen service is a happy development as we welcome the new year, and (it is) a good start for the restoration of our flights to and from the Chinese mainland,” Britanico said.

“Philippine Airlines is continuously working towards flying back to more cities in China, with our goal of operating the largest network of flights between the Philippines and multiple cities in mainland China,” he said.

At the height of the pandemic, PAL flew a series of charter flights to China, including to Nanding and Hangzhou. On the other hand, PAL still operates chartered trips to Wuhan, which is believed to be the origin of COVID-19.

Prior to the pandemic, PAL had 35 flights every week to five cities in China, namely, Beijing, Guangzhou, Jinjiang, Shanghai and Xiamen. However, it is struggling to resume its trips to China.

For airlines like PAL, China’s closure to leisure travel prevents them from recovering to their pre-pandemic capacity, slowing down the rebound of their earnings as well.

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