By Maya M. Padillo, Correspondent
DAVAO CITY — Philippine Airlines, Inc. (PAL) is now putting focus on the expansion of domestic and international flights to and from major airports outside the capital, particularly Davao in Mindanao, Clark in Pampanga, and Cebu in the Visayas.
“New hubs mean new hopes for a growing economy. Philippine Airlines is no longer just a Manila-centric airline. The future of Philippine aviation lies in the new economic centers of the country, here in Mindanao, in the Visayas, and other parts in Luzon,” said Jaime J. Bautista, PAL president and chief operating officer, during a press briefing here Thursday.
Mr. Bautista said the country’s flag-carrier, now a four-star rated airline, will be able to fly more routes with the delivery of new airplanes.
He said they are now increasing the Davao-Bohol flights to a daily service, and plan to increase Davao-Clark flights in the coming months.
“Last month in time for Holy Week we opened a link from Davao to Siargao, a fast-rising destination for surfers and adventure seekers. Siargao joins Tagbilaran, Zamboanga, Manila, Clark and Cebu as destinations that we now serve from Davao,” he said.
The PAL executive said they are currently working on market evaluations for international routes from Davao, including flights to and from Palau where a group of businessmen are in talks with the airline.
“(Tourism) Secretary (Wanda Corazon Tulfo) Teo also challenged us to consider international routes from Davao and we will unveil such plans in the coming months,” he said.
Also in the pipeline is the Cebu-Los Angeles service, which would come before flights between Davao and the US mainland.
To compensate for the impending six-month closure of Boracay and the temporary cancellation of flights, Mr. Bautista said they are looking at increasing flights to other tourist destinations around the country.
“We expect Visayas, Mindanao, and Palawan to benefit as we re-direct flights from China, Korea, and Taiwan to Cebu and Puerto Princesa with some traffic flowing on to Siargao, Camiguin, Coron and Butuan,” he said.
PAL is targeting to ferry up to 17 million passengers this year with its existing fleet of 85 aircraft.
Mr. Bautista said the flag carrier is aiming to have 100 aircraft and a five-star rating by 2020.
“But we are not merely adding more planes, we are constantly upgrading the cabins, seats, amenities, inflight entertainment and technology,” he said. PAL has been certified as a four-star airline by Skytrax, the London-based international air transport rating organization. This made PAL the first and only airline in the country to have a four-star rating.