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06
Nov

PAL targets 17M passenger load

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BusinessWorld Online

FLAG CARRIER Philippine Airlines (PAL) is aiming to carry between 16.5 million to 17 million passengers next year, anticipating strong demand from Chinese tourists flocking to Philippine tourist destinations.

“Next year we’re expecting 16.5 to 17 million passengers,” PAL President Jaime J. Bautista told reporters in a recent interview.

Mr. Bautista said PAL is on track to meet its 15 million passenger target this year. “We grew our traffic by around 12%,” he said.

The airline led by tycoon Lucio Tan is targeting to ferry 20 million passengers by 2021 given the increasing number of flights. It is also set to expand its current fleet of 87 aircraft to at least 96 by 2021.

In 2016, PAL ferried 13.35 million passengers, 12% higher than the 11.9 million recorded in 2015.

PAL is counting on the increasing number of Chinese tourists to the Philippines to boost passenger growth. The airline currently operates charter flights to secondary cities in China from tourist destinations like Kalibo, Cebu, and Puerto Princesa.

“The demand is growing for domestic and international [flights]. We’re expecting that there will be more than a million Chinese visitors next year, from 600,000 to 700,000 (this year). We’re receiving a lot of queries about possible chartered flights to different cities in China,” Mr. Bautista told reporters.

Mr. Bautista added PAL has already increased frequency of the charter flights to China. “We’re crossing our fingers that the demand will continue to grow,” he said.

In July, PAL took delivery of the brand-new Bombardier Q400s for its domestic routes. Five more are expected to be delivered in 2018, and two in early 2019.

Later this year, it will be taking delivery of Boeing 777 aircrafts for flights to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, and London-Heathrow. PAL will also add A321 NEOs 2018-24 for flights to Brisbane, New Delhi, Perth, Mumbai, and other Asia-Pacific destinations, as well as A350s 2018-19 for nonstop flights to New York, Chicago, Seattle, and other destinations in Europe and North America.

Starting December, it will launch direct flights between Manila to Auckland, New Zealand.

It is also continuing its domestic expansion, as it will launch in December flights from Cebu to Siargao, Camiguin, Ozamiz and Legazpi, as well as to Bangkok. Cebu-Beijing flights will start this month.

PAL is anticipating government approval of its proposal to build a $400-million terminal annex to its home, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2, to improve passenger service given anticipated increased volume. Once PAL starts construction by 2018, the project can be completed by 2020.

PAL Holdings, Inc. reported a P1.63-billion net loss attributable to parent in the first half, primarily due to increased operating expenses from higher fuel costs.

On Friday, PAL settled its P6-billion debt to the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

It paid P5.68 billion to the CAAP and P258.6 million to the MIAA for unpaid air navigational charges which have been incurred since the 1970s until July 30, 2017.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte had threatened to shut down NAIA Terminal 2 unless the airline paid the fees. – Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo