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Five-star rating still unlikely, PAL chief says

Cramped airline lounges and congested passenger terminals in Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) are expected to cost flag-carrier Philippine Airlines its goal to win a five-star rating by 2020.

PAL president Jaime Bautista told reporters last week that a target to attain the coveted SkyTrax status by next year would likely be delayed.

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“We have to be realistic,” Bautista said. “One of the requirements of the five-star rating is a very good, very beautiful lounge. And we don’t have that yet here in Manila.”

He said congestion in Naia also had an adverse impact on passenger experience.

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The SkyTrax rating takes into account “the overall experience of the passenger” and that includes the airport, he said.

PAL, which won its four-star status last year, had been gunning for the top rating since the ambition was first announced in 2016. Bautista said SkyTrax re-certified PAL as a four-star carrier for this year.

A five-star rating will further validate the airline’s efforts to boost customer service, improve the inflight experience and acquire brand-new planes.

There are 10 airlines with a five-star rating. These include Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and All Nippon Airways, owned by PAL shareholder ANA Holdings of Japan. Those airlines also operate in hubs that are consistently recognized as among the world’s best airports.

Sprawling lounges in Singapore’s Changi Airport, for example, feature showers and resting spaces designed after residential living rooms. Qatar’s Al Safwa First Lounge draws design inspiration from Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art and features world-class dining and a spa.

PAL’s lounges in Naia’s Terminal 2 are designed around cramped areas while in Terminal 1, PAL uses the lounge of Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions, a ground handling company.

Plans are underway to design a new PAL lounge in Terminal 1 but the biggest change could happen once a private sector proposal to expand and operate Naia pushes through.

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TAGS: Business, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Philippine Airlines
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