Checking out PAL’s new Q400 domestic aircraft

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila - The Freeman

DAVAO CITY – First off, it is the first death anniversary of my good friend, Sir Roberto “Bobby” Aboitiz who passed on to eternal life because of medical complications. How time flies indeed that a year has passed with Bobby no longer with us, but there are times when I feel his presence, because whenever we meet, we talk about so many things from airplanes to motorcycles to the problems of Cebu’s growth that has caused our bad traffic. On Sunday, we will have our second big bike ride to the Kool Adventure Camp like what we did after he passed away. I would like to request our pious readers to please pray for the repose of his soul.

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Selected members of the media were flown to Davao City courtesy of Philippine Airlines (PAL) which now has a 4-star rating, which is a feat done under the leadership of our good friend, Chief Executive Officer and President Mr. Jaime “Jimmy” Bautista and a host of PAL officials including our very own Harry Inoferio, Cielo Villaluna, Jose Perez de Tagle, and Victor Suarez. We are here in Davao promoting the recently-arrived Bombardier Q400NG.

The Q400 is the perfect short- and medium-haul aircraft for the Philippines, which is an archipelagic country. Call it a 21st century turboprop that many airlines all over the world have used, with a dispatch reliability of over 99.5 percent. In short, if there are delays during your flight, don’t blame the Q400. Blame the weather, the runway, or airport issues, but this plane just loves to fly, and in airline parlance, when an airliner is up in the air, it means profits!

Basically, the aircraft looks like the old Fokker F-27, but the Q400 has nearly twice the horsepower of those conventional turboprops and features six-blade, all-composite Dowty propellers that gives more thrust, higher revolutions per minute with low engine noise, which relates to low fuel consumption and significantly lower operating and maintenance costs. With state-of-the-art avionics, the Q400 assures its passengers of safety while in the air.

Kudos to PAL, led by Pres. Jimmy Bautista for getting the right aircraft for the times, especially when many Filipinos have learned to fly to tourist destinations because flying today is no longer as expensive as it once was. Best of all, the Philippines has learned to develop many tourist destinations that did not exist 20 years ago.

The Q400 is configured with 86 seats in economy and premium economy classes with 29-inch and 33-inch seat pitch, respectively. PAL President Jimmy Bautista said that the new Q400 is the first of 12 planes that they have ordered from Bombardier. Four other planes were delivered last year and will be based in key domestic airports of the country. For 2018, five other Q400 will be delivered and the last two Q400 will be delivered next year. What I learned from the Bombardier officials who are here in Davao City is that there are 200 Filipino technicians and engineers working with Bombardier and many of them helped build the Q400.

During the press conference in Marco Polo Davao, Bautista pointed out to the media that the acquisition of the new aircraft is part of PAL’s bid to be more efficient in its operations and services. It is also aimed at strengthening its market share in the domestic airline business. This is something quite achievable given the technological advantage of the Q400 over the other aircraft. With the Q400, PAL has a winner in the domestic race!

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Since PAL billeted us at the Marco Polo Davao Hotel, it was great to meet up with an old friend Mrs. Dottie Viajar Wurgler-Cronin who is not only the current general manager of Mindanao’s sole 5-star hotel, she is also the first-ever Filipino and female top hotel executive who has taken charge of Marco Polo Davao since March 2016 and since the last time I stayed at the Marco Polo Davao Hotel, she has maintained this hotel and kept its 5-star standards. Indeed, most Philippine hotels hire foreigners to run their hotels, but Dottie Wurgler-Cronin has proven that Filipinos can manage a 5-star hotel just as good as foreign expats. Kudos to Dottie Wurgler-Cronin for making waves for Filipinas. It was great to see you again!

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For email responses to this article, write to [email protected]. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

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