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New airport infra key to PAL’s ‘five-star’ goal

By: - Reporter / @daxinq
/ 05:04 AM February 14, 2018

Improvements in the country’s aviation infrastructure—in particular, having a new airport that can facilitate more aircraft movements—are crucial for Philippine Airlines to be able to achieve its goal of joining the ranks of the world’s five-star carriers by 2020.

Thus said PAL president Jaime Bautista as he laid out the next steps the Lucio Tan-owned flag carrier would take in the next two years to capitalize on the gains of its recent upgrade to four-star status by international airline accreditation body Skytrax.

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“Airport improvements are very important to us, especially for our goal to get the five-star status,” he said in a press briefing in Makati yesterday. “We really need to give the passengers the experience they want. If there’s (airport) congestion, there will be delays and sometimes cancellations. And that will really affect our aspiration to be a five-star carrier.”

The bulk of PAL’s operations are based in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport whose original facilities were built as far back as 70 years ago. It has one runway that can accommodate wide-bodied aircraft for long-haul international flights, and an intersecting shorter runway used for domestic and regional flights. Naia can handle only 40 takeoffs or landings per hour.

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Most aviation hubs overseas have at least two parallel runways that can accommodate simultaneous takeoffs ands landings.

“For us to be able to do that, we will have to adjust our plans,” Bautista said, explaining that current constraints at Naia meant PAL must moderate its goal of growing its fleet size and operations by up to 15 percent yearly.

“But by working with [airport authorities], and PAL implementing what we think are important [improvements] for the passenger experience, we can still achieve five-star status by 2020,” he said.

PAL said it would undertake major initiatives this year to sustain the momentum of its recently gained four-star status, including augmenting its fleet with newer aircraft, including the first of the long-haul using an Airbus A350-900s to be delivered in June.

Additional A350s will arrive in August, September and December.

Bautista said PAL would use these new aircraft—six of which were ordered in 2015 for a total of $2 billion—for a nonstop service between Manila and New York that would be made possible by using a shorter route over the North Pole. Current PAL flights between Manila and New York must make refueling stops in Vancouver, Canada.

PAL plans to use the A350s for flights to Seattle, Chicago and Western Europe in the future.

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