Thursday, March 31, 2011

PAL flights to boost tourism

March 31, 2011
Time: 11:38 am IST

Neelam Mathews

With business between Philippines and India on the rise particularly on the IT sector, Philippines is now viewing India’s 8 million outbound travelers as Philippine Airlines (PAL) starts six weekly services to New Delhi. (Aerospace Diary broke the news on March 16, 2011). Of the six flights, three will be via Bangkok and three direct to Delhi.

Jamie J.Bautista, President and COO said the A330-300 will have a configuration of 42 business class and 260 economy and ample (belly) cargo space”

The airlines is offering 188,000 airline seats a year for Indian travelers to and from the Philippines. Bautista said the Indian government’s decision to grant visas on arrival was a big plus to help boost traffic.

PAL and Philippine Tourism have a big job ahead. Of the two million Indians flying a year to South East Asia, only 32,817 visited the Philippines, while the rest traveled to Singapore (726,000), Thailand (611,983), Malaysia (589,838) and Indonesia (150,000).

PAL is able to fly to India availing entitlements granted in the 2005 air services agreement. The treaty also allows PAL to fly seven times a week from any point in the Philippines to Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, while allowing stopovers to and from Bangkok.

“This (filling seats) will not prove to be an issue given this is the first direct flight. We have promotional packages that are sure to entice Indian travelers,” says Subhash Goyal Chairman Stic Travel.

With traffic on the rise – many Indian IT companies have BPOs in the Philippines- and corporates looking at action weekends, niche activities like diving will prove a big incentive, says Glen Austin, Dept. of tourism.

In days of rising fuel prices, the carrier continues to face a set of challenges including downgrade to category 2 of the Philippine civil aviation system by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) since 2008, preventing PAL from increasing its number of flights and destinations to the US and from operating its Boeing 777s and the ban by the European Union on all Philippine carriers, preventing PAL from returning to Europe and stiff domestic competition driven by low-fares offered by budget airlines, says Bautista.

“There is also the matter of our labor unions.  Since last year, the ups and downs of our relations with our two unions, representing our ground crew and cabin crew, have played out in the public spotlight,” he adds.

What about competition from low cost carriers like Air Asia to India and also in the Philippines following the recent domestic open skies? “We are the only carrier flying direct, so there is no competition. While we are not against open skies, we would like our government to be more flexible and allow us to charge higher fares and fuel surcharge….” he adds.

PAL says it is also interested in joining an airline alliance as it would help boost bottomlines.

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