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Coffee, tea or Girlie Ty? |

Travel and Tourism

Coffee, tea or Girlie Ty?

- Ching M. Alano -

MANILA, Philippines - They say the best part of leaving is coming home. That’s exactly how Girlie Ty must have felt when she came home recently to assume the plum post of country manager of United Airlines in the Philippines after her stint in Vietnam where she was United’s general manager of airport operations.

“It’s hard to find a person who has stepped on a United aircraft who does not know Girlie,” says Koji Nagata, United Airlines director for communications - Asia Pacific. “Now that she has come full circle, back to thePhilippines, and home, I am confident her legacy of success will follow.”

With her career soaring high, Girlie is back where she started. She started with United in 1986 when she was Manila station manager for Pan Am. Pan Am? I’m sure a lot of baby boomers must have flown the friendly skies via Pan Am (that’s Pan American World Airways). We do hoard fond memories of this cultural icon of the 20th century. We remember its good old blue globe logo proudly sitting on the tail of its aircraft. We remember the stewardesses in their chic blue uniforms, blue pillbox hats and white gloves, pacing the aisles and asking: Care for coffee or tea? We remember the pilots in their black double-breasted suit jackets with matching black neckties and white caps.

When United purchased Pan Am’s Pacific Division, Girlie was asked to stay on as airport manager. “As chairperson of the MNL Airline Operators Council, Girlie provided much needed leadership during the planning and launch of United’s service and was a stabilizing presence for the entire workforce,” Nagata relates. “Girlie was always our ‘go to’ person in the division and successfully worked on many special projects in the early years of the Pan Am integration until she was named United’s country manager-Philippines in 1996. In that role, Girlie continued to demonstrate her leadership skills both within the company and in the community as an Executive Committee member of the American Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Airline Representatives.”

After United stopped operations in the Philippines, Girlie relocated to the US where she first manned United’s Northern California City ticket offices. And then in 2004, she flew to Vietnam to become United’s general manager of airport operations. And in recognition of her sterling performance, Girlie was given all commercial responsibilities in Vietnam, along with her airport duties.

   So, fasten your seatbelts as Girlie Ty takes us on a trip down memory lane. Excerpts:

THE PHILIPPINE STAR: Welcome home, Girlie! What have you missed most about the Philippines since United Airlines left the country?

GIRLIE TY: The warmth and kindness of the Filipinos and their “can do” spirit.

Please allow me to provide a brief backgrounder. In October 2010, United and Continental legally merged. On November 30, 2011, we received US FAA’s (Federal Aviation Administration) approval for a single operating certificate. This regulatory milestone, while significant from an operational policies and procedures perspective, does not change how customers interact with the two airlines.  Customers of United and Continental will continue to shop for flights, obtain seat assignments, and check flight status on each carrier’s respective website until the company migrates to a single passenger service system in the first quarter of 2012.  At that point, from a customer’s perspective, the two carriers will function as one airline.

Why did United cease operations in the Philippines? Why is it coming back?

United’s performance did not meet our expectations and we had to suspend our operations out of Manila in 1998.  

Continental has always operated from Manila where it currently has 11 flights weekly to Guam — nine nonstop flights to Guam and two via Palau (Koror).

United we stand: “We are the world’s leading airline for our customers with our expanded route network and better products and services,” says Girlie Ty. 

And what are you bringing to Manila now that United is back?

The experiences and learning from my exposure to various assignments, and the opportunity of having worked with and for different people in many parts of the world.

Do share with us some of your fondest memories of the time you spent in Manila. And the not-so-good memories?

Most of the things you did in and out of the work environment centered around food.  You almost always had coffee or a soda-cum-something to munch on at your desk, food was served at meetings, and everyone had to meet over lunch or dinner. 

I can do without the traffic, which appears to be much worse now. 

What was it like working with a Filipino staff/crew?

Fabulous! I have generally been blessed with great people to work with through the years. They were intelligent, knowledgeable, creative, and highly skilled.  Their individual and collective positive attitude towards work and each other plus their great team spirit made the going great. One can’t ask for more. 

What were some of the special projects you worked on in the early years of Pan Am?

With my Manila team, we set our eyes on being selected as the best Pan Am station in the Pacific and we did it! 

What do you think sets Manila apart from the other cities in the world where you’ve been posted?

The heat, traffic, and the floods.  But, seriously, Manila is “home” and will always be “home.” This will always make it special. 

You do a lot of traveling. What is your favorite city in the world and why?

I spent the last seven lovely years in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and it will always be a favorite.  The graciousness and charm of the Vietnamese are a given.  The beauty of the city with its last vestiges of French architecture competing with the emerging modern skyline, the wide range of Vietnamese and foreign cuisine, its homegrown coffee which is gaining world attention, the motorbikes, the shopping, the quaint countryside and beaches … ahh, c’est la vie! 

Which to you is the best airport in the world and why?

With the attention our NAIA 1 is currently getting, it will hopefully be one of the better ones in the not-too-distant future.   

How do you kill time in the airport when you travel?

Sleep, read, and work on my computer. 

How has United’s passenger profile changed through the years? Are there more young people traveling now, and where do they go?

 United continues to focus on our business traveler.  The leisure market, the worldwide economy notwithstanding, is still there. We see more and more young travelers now, be it for pleasure, study or work anywhere in the world. 

  Which are your high-traffic destinations now?

  From Manila, it will be Guam to Tokyo and Honolulu, then to the US Mainland.  United has three flights daily between Guam and Tokyo and a daily flight from Guam to Honolulu.  

Since the 911 tragedy, how has air travel changed?

911 has forever changed air travel in terms of safety and security.  There are more security processes now in place with some visible to travellers and some done in the background but with the same objective: to keep air travel safe for everyone.

Now that United is back, what can we expect from you? How does United hope to push travel to the Philippines?

 We will continue to grow our nine weekly flights from Manila to Guam and two also to Guam via Palau (Koror), maximize our Star Alliance partnership, and work on our joint venture with All Nippon Airlines (ANA), also a Star Alliance member, which is now planned to launch in April 2012. This joint venture will provide customers in the Philippines with more flight options from Manila to the US mainland via Narita by using ANA’s daily Manila–Tokyo flights.  The opportunities are endless.

 We are the world’s leading airline for our customers with our expanded route network and better products and services.  Company-wide, United is investing US$550 million to improve our onboard products by adding flat-bed sitting on long-haul aircraft, bringing our total aircraft with flat-bed seats to 185, more than any other US carrier. We are adding Economy Plus seating and Channel 9 air traffic control audio to more than 300 aircraft, installing advanced broadband Wi-Fi on more than 200 aircraft, streaming wireless video onboard our B747 aircraft, on demand audio and video, and many more.  We also have new aircraft on order including the Dreamliner, the first of which will be delivered in the latter half of 2012.

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