By Arra B. Francia, Reporter
PHILIPPINE Airlines, Inc. (PAL) looks to complete a deal with a strategic investor within the first half of the year, which could help boost its operations as the flag carrier adds new routes to both Asian and North American destinations.
PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista said the airline is hopeful the deal will be closed soon, without disclosing further details on how the investor will enter the firm.
“We’re targeting first half of this year… Up to 40% stake, that’s the maximum that we can offer. As per the law, foreigners can own only up to 40%,” Mr. Bautista told reporters after a press conference announcing the airline’s new routes in Manila on Tuesday.
PAL unveiled on Tuesday new non-stop routes from Manila to Hanoi in Vietnam, Phnom Penh in Cambodia, and New Delhi in India within the first half of the year, in a bid to increase its passenger volume to 19 million in 2019. This is about 12% higher than the 17 million passengers the airline said it ferried in 2018.
The direct flight to Hanoi will start on March 31, operating four times weekly using the 156-seater Airbus A320.
The route between Manila and Phnom Penh will commence on April 1, utilizing the Airbus 321 Classic five times a week with a capacity of up to 199 seats.
PAL will also revive its direct flights to New Delhi, India, after the route was canceled in 2011 due to the small market at the time. The company is still talking with Indian authorities regarding its final slot and operational clearances, but targets to begin the service by April.
Manila-New Delhi flights will use the 168-seater Airbus A321neo, offering full-flat business class seats with Wi-Fi connectivity.
“Our goal is to strengthen PAL’s network and establish the Philippines as a true gateway hub to Southeast Asia and South Asia for the North American market,” Mr. Bautista said during the press conference for the new routes.
Mr. Bautista said the Philippines’ strategic location between the Pacific Ocean and Asian continent makes it the logical gateway for Americans and Canadians who want to visit India and other Asian capitals.
PAL is planning to launch two more new routes from secondary hubs such as Clark and Cebu to Northeast Asian destinations. At the same time, the company is also ramping up flights to several destinations, including routes from Cebu to Nagoya that will now service daily flights instead of four times a week.
Nonstop flights from Manila to Osaka will now increase to 11 from seven; and Manila to Bangkok will have 25 from 21 flights.
There will be now 11 weekly flights from Manila to Kuala Lumpur, from seven flights at present. Manila to Jakarta flights will increase to 10 a week from seven, while Manila to Los Angeles will now have 17 weekly flights from 14. With the expanded flight frequencies, PAL said it will now have 31 weekly flights to California alone, and daily flights to New York and Toronto.
PAL’s Manila-New York nonstop flight is the longest commercial route operated by any airline to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.
To support the increased number of flights, PAL expects to receive six more aircraft within the year, including two Airbus 350s, two Airbus A321neos, and two next generation Q400 Turboprops.
Mr. Bautista said they are also working with the Israeli government to launch a direct flight to the country.
By Arra B. Francia, Reporter