PHILIPPINE Airlines (PAL) will start flying to Sapporo in September, as Japan gains popularity as a tourist destination among Filipinos.
In a press conference in Manila on Thursday, PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista said the flag carrier decided to add a six-hour direct flight from Manila to Sapporo due to increasing demand.
“Last year, we carried almost half a million passengers [to Japan] with our 89 weekly flights. With the introduction of Sapporo, this will result to more passengers going to Japan. So we’re expecting more than 500,000 next year,” Mr. Bautista said.
Starting Sept. 10, PAL will fly thrice a week to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It will use a 168-seater Airbus A321neo for the flights.
This the airline’s second-long range flight after its Manila-Brisbane route, and its sixth destination in Japan.
“We’ll start first with Manila to Sapporo. As we grow the market, we can consider flying [to Japan] from other major cities in the Philippines [like Cebu and Davao],” Mr. Bautista said.
He said the airline will evaluate the Manila-Sapporo route first before possibly increasing flight frequencies.
“But as we develop the market, as we grow the market, this will be a substantial growth in our operations in Japan,” the PAL chief said.
Aside from Sapporo, PAL currently flies to Fukuoka, Osaka (Kansai), Nagoya (Chubu), and Tokyo (Narita and Haneda). The company also provides chartered flights to Okinawa island.
PAL Vice-President for Sales Ryan T. Uy said the new Japan flight would also attract more Japanese tourists to visit the Philippines.
“The demand, yes, we do see a demand from Cebu. The favorite destination[s] of the Japanese are Cebu [and] Boracay,” he added. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato