MANILA, Philippines – National flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), jointly owned by taipan Lucio Tan and diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), is further expanding its international reach through flights to Russia and London.
PAL president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang said the new international destinations of the full service airline would boost the government’s campaign of luring 10 million tourists to visit the Philippines by 2016.
“We recognize the growing demand from Russian tourists for a direct air link to the Philippines. Through this service, we hope to be able to serve this market and more importantly, help our government’s efforts to boost tourism,” Ang stressed.
PAL yesterday mounted chartered flights between Manila and the Russian city of Vladivostok in partnership with Primorsky Agency of Aviation Companies TM Biletur. Chartered flights to and from the two cities would be scheduled throughout the year.
Data from the Department of Tourism showed a 33-percent increase in the number of Russian tourists to 21,736 in the first eight months of the year.
From Manila, Russian visitors would be able to fly out to PAL’s domestic destinations including Caticlan (Boracay), Cebu, Tagbilaran (Bohol), Puerto Princesa, and Legaspi. The visitors could also connect to the carrier’s regional and international hubs.
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PAL is also set to mount direct flights to London on Nov. 4 after the European Union lifted the ban on the airline from entering the European airspace last July 12.
Ang said the direct flights five times a week using Boeing 777-300 ER would not only benefit tourists but Filipinos living and working abroad.
“In the first six months of 2013 alone, we had more than 60,000 arrivals from Britain. This elevated the United Kingdom to the Philippines’ top ten visitor markets for the first time – the only European nation on the list. With PAL’s new non-stop flights, we are sure those numbers will increase further,” Ang said.
The tourism department predicts a 65-percent increase in European visitors to about 575,000 this year. Next year, the government expects 700,000 visitors from Europe.
“It is not just tourists who stand to benefit but more importantly our 664,000 Filipino kababayans in Europe, particularly the 250,000 living in the UK, who will now be able to return home more often via the airline that knows them best,” Mr. Ang said.
Ang would lead a delegation of top PAL and government officials on the inaugural flight including the British Ambassador Asif Ahmad.
Philippine Ambassador to the UK Enrique Manalo will be welcome the passengers upon the flight’s arrival at London’s Heathrow Airport. After this, some PAL executives will proceed to the PAL booth at World Trade Market (WTM).
The return of PAL to London is the centerpiece of the country’s participation at the WTM and would be the main focus of tourism promotions by the Philippines under the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”
Susan del Mundo, of the Tourism Promotions Board of the Department of Tourism, said Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez would grace the event together with 90 other tourism officials.
“This is the biggest Philippine participation since joining WTM back in 1980 or any travel fair worldwide. A total of 90 DoT officials led by Secretary Jimenez will be at WTM,” she said.
Buyers and sellers from every sector of the travel industry around the world converge at WTM, London’s biggest annual travel event attracting more than 47,000 global travel professionals.
Since the entry of SMC in April last year, PAL embarked on a massive re-fleeting program involving the acquisition of 100 aircraft. It has so far placed orders for 65 Airbus aircraft worth close to $10 billion.