PAL likely to open direct flight to Tel Aviv
Filipinos who have long dreamt of a spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land or a Mediterranean getaway have reason to rejoice: Philippine Airlines is likely to open a direct flight from Manila to Tel Aviv by the end of the year.
Speaking to the Inquirer at the sidelines of an event in Makati City on Tuesday, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism director Hassan Madah said he had discussed with PAL president Jaime Bautista the possibility of offering a direct flight to Tel Aviv, Israel’s financial capital and most cosmopolitan city.
The move would allow Filipinos to fly to Israel, and vice versa, at cheaper rates. Travel time will also be shorter.
Madah said PAL had been planning to open the route for some time now. A breakthrough came recently when Saudi Arabia began allowing commercial airlines to use its airspace.
“[Before, PAL would have] needed to fly above the red sea, and this will basically take them two hours more,” Madah said. “This [requires] more fuel, more time, and is not convenient for anybody.”
Depending on the route PAL takes, Madah said flight time between Manila and Tel Aviv will be cut short to only 10 hours.
The tourism director said that between 2015 and 2017, the number of Filipino tourists in Israel more than doubled, from 11,300 to 23,500 last year. He attributed this to new flight routes offered byTurkish Airlines and Cathay Pacific that now transport Filipinos to Israel through Istanbul and Hong Kong, respectively.
A direct flight to Tel Aviv, which is just an hour’s drive from Jerusalem, would turn Manila into a Southeast Asian hub that could transport Israelis to other countries as well, like Australia.
Madah also said that more Israelis had taken an interest in visiting the Philippines after the reality TV show “Survivor” (Israel) shot its eighth season in Palawan last year.
“Nobody before knew what Palawan was. They would say, ‘Where is that?’” Madah said. “Now you say Palawan in Israel, and they know.” /ee
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