PAL eyes flights to Heathrow

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08:58 PM May 27th, 2012

May 27th, 2012 08:58 PM

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MANILA, Philippines—San Miguel Corp.-led flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is considering flights to London’s Heathrow airport once the country’s carriers are finally allowed to fly back to European Union member states.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas said the country’s oldest airline could have flights to the United Kingdom as part of its route expansion.

“Yes, PAL can fly to Heathrow because there are still unused frequencies,” Roxas said in an interview.

Roxas said the matter was discussed with the Lord Mayor of London Alderman David Wootton, who was in Manila for a visit last week.

There are currently no direct flights between any point in Europe and the Philippines. Earlier this year, Air France/KLM stopped its direct service between Manila and Amsterdam after complaining about high airline taxes that targeted foreign carriers with long-haul flights out of the country.

The Amsterdam service is now served out of Manila via Hong Kong.

Shortly after announcing San Miguel’s acquisition of a controlling stake in PAL, the conglomerate’s president and chief operating officer, Ramon S. Ang, said one of the top priorities in bringing the airline back to profitability was the expansion of its fleet and route.

He said the company would restore flights to Europe and expand its operations in the United States as a way to offset what the company has lost in domestic market share to budget carriers.

Ang said PAL would invest $1 billion for the acquisition of 100 new planes as it adds new routes. However, flights to the US would not be possible until the Philippines gets back its Category 1 status with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The country is currently on a blacklist of countries whose carriers are banned from flying to European Union member states.

Amid high fuel prices, PAL’s direct parent firm, PAL Holdings, posted a total comprehensive loss for the nine months of its fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2011, of P3.6 billion, as passenger and cargo revenues declined 13 percent.—Paolo G. Montecillo

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