PAL Buys Brand New Q400NG From BBD

9 December 2016

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) has officially concluded a purchase agreement for five Q400 next generation turboprop airliners from Bombardier Commercial Aircraft (BBD), with purchase rights for additional seven aircraft, the Canadian aircraft manufacturer announced yesterday.

Bombardier said the value of the transaction is $165 million based on the Q400 list price, increasing to $401 million if the airline exercises all of its purchase rights.

Philippines Airlines Q400NG orders will be configured for 86 seats in two classes, Business and economy. The five aircraft will be delivered to the airline in 2017 replacing the old Q400s in the fleets inventory, Bombardier said. 

The planes will be operated by its low cost subsidiary PalExpress through Air Philippines Corporation. Meanwhile, the newer Q300 fleet will continue to operate with the airline as it has been recently acquired.

High Flyers

9 December 2016

Closer Look at CAAP Boss

By Rina Jimenez-David has been a “high-flying” career, and not just because he’s a pilot. Capt. Manuel Antonio “Skee” Tamayo has spent much of his career flying for Philippine Airlines, but that’s not the half of it. Captain Tamayo, who now heads the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, has, as he puts it, flown “six heads of state since Tita Cory.” And that list includes not just President Duterte but also Pope Francis, who was his passenger during that fateful trip to Tacloban.

If you will recall, when Captain Tamayo (he still retains the title) boarded the papal plane bound for Tacloban, there was a typhoon brewing in the vicinity, but it was far enough to ensure that the Pope would land in Tacloban safely. But later that morning, Tamayo got news that the typhoon was moving closer and could hit Tacloban in the afternoon. “So I had to talk to the Pope’s staff that we had no choice but to leave by noon if we wanted to be in Manila that evening.” And that’s why the Pope had to cut short his trip to Tacloban amid the high winds of the approaching typhoon.

Saving a pontiff from the dangers and tribulations of weather disturbances is part and parcel of a pilot’s job. As is securing the safety and comfort of the country’s presidents. But judging from his demeanor, it’s safe to assume that Tamayo has kept his calm and cool persona even as he flew the country’s most important officials, and even as he copes with the rising demands of the aviation sector, given the burgeoning number of tourists and travelers.

Speaking of his high-profile VIPs (very important passengers), has Tamayo ever received a huge tip from them? He just smiles and shakes his head, although, he adds, Pope Francis did give him “many rosaries,” all blessed by the Pontiff, it is hoped.

Captain Tamayo was the guest at yesterday’s “Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel,” together with Ed Monreal, the new general manager of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Cathay Pacific's Ed Monreal runs NAIA

Monreal shares much the same background as Tamayo, having served as a long-time executive with Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific. Their years of experience with airlines, it turns out, serve them well as they seek to move out of the welter of complications (and complaints) that bedeviled previous aviation authorities. “It was a challenge for me,” Monreal describes his attitude upon being invited by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to take on his post. He had retired from airline work, he disclosed, and his wife “had been egging me to take on a job because I was hanging out at home a lot.” And so far, he adds, he has no regrets about taking on the challenge.

With the country’s aviation industry, including its airlines and airports, upgraded to “Category 1” status some months back by international authorities, the challenge confronting the pair, they said, is “not just to maintain this status but even upgrade it.”

While ordinary travelers may demand nothing more than simple changes like shorter queues, cleaner restrooms and an end to the “tanim bala” or bullet-planting scam that became a full-blown scandal (now a thing of the past, it is hoped), both Tamayo and Monreal are working on more serious issues like security and safety.

For instance, the CAAP and Naia have recently installed a fully-functioning ILS or Instrument Landing System to ensure safer takeoffs and landings of aircraft in the country’s main gateway. Tamayo says they are also in the process of upgrading a satellite tracking system that would improve their ability to track airplanes flying above Philippine airspace. The fees paid by the airlines for use of this airspace, adds Tamayo, is “the CAAP’s biggest source of income.”

One of the Bulong ladies couldn’t resist commending the pair for “resisting the temptation to put the blame for all your problems on the previous administration.” Instead, they choose to focus on the job at hand, even commending steps carried out by their predecessors that make their jobs easier these days. As Monreal puts it: “We’re just here to work.”

Bicol Airport Lays Groundwork For PTB

8 December 2016

Bicol International Airport Passenger terminal (PTB) break grounds today with President Rodrigo Duterte spearheading the time capsule laying at the airport complex.

The airport terminal project was upgraded by the Transport Department (DOTr) after the Laguindingan Airport experience where the brand new terminal was operating at capacity barely three months after opening itself to the public and has operated beyond capacity ever since. Capacity shortfall was caused by repeated project implementation delays on account of budget shortfall of the national government which also plagued Bicol and other airport infrastructure projects.

The old terminal planning design made possible by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that sponsored Airports Master Planning Project prepared in 1997 was good for project implemented in 2003 with supposed completion date in 2006, but problems in lot acquisitions and budgetary shortfalls prompted project deferrals for 10 years.

The revised project schedule covers dramatic expansion of passenger terminal building from the original 5,250 square meters to 13,220 square meters with Passenger Boarding Bridge facilities, designed to address the expected passenger volume of about 2.15 million by 2025. Similar revisions were being implemented for ongoing airport projects in Puerto Princesa and Tagbilaran and for the upgrading of General Santos Airport terminal building.

The airport construction project will have a price tag of P4.8 billion, and is expected to be completed in 2020.

PAF Receives Two More FA-50

1 December 2016

The Philippine Air Force welcomes the second batch of a dozen fighter planes ordered from South Korea in a deal worth 18.9 billion.

The fighter jet which landed at Clark airport before noon on Thursday displayed a diamond formation reminiscent of the old glory days of the air force used to be done on the erstwhile F-5 fleet.

The arrival of two more FA-50 (tail #3 and #4) raises the number of existing jets of the Philippine Air Force to four. They were piloted by two South Koreans from Korean Aerospace and arrived at Clark Air Base around 11:41 a.m. and 11:42 a.m., respectively.

The two fighter jets left South Korea on Nov. 29 and reached Kaohsiung, Taiwan, yesterday. It then proceeded to Clark airport around 10:10 a.m. and were met by the first two FA-50s with tail numbers 0001 and 002 over Pangasinan. They made a diamond formation over Clark Air Base and were met with a water cannon salute when they landed.

The rest of the fighter jet is expected to be delivered on a staggered basis until 2018.

CEB A320 Lands At Caticlan

PAA Testing Flights

1 December 2016

Cebu Pacific inaugural A320 flight to Caticlan airport on November 23, 2016.        Image by Vincent Cerbas.

Philippines Air Asia testing A320 flights at Caticlan Airport on November 29, 2016.

PAL 5 Star Aims Start in 2018

PAL Re-configures Monoclass A330

1 December 2016

Philippine Airlines (PAL) is heading to "nose-to-tail reinvention" as it aims to become a five-star, full-service carrier by 2020, said President and COO Jaime Bautista on the sidelines of Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) 60th Assembly of Presidents in Manila.

Bautista confirmed that initiatives were already mapped out to remedy the carrier’s identity crisis and LCC inclinations as it re-positions back to become a full service carrier of the Philippines, a move that required a reconfiguration of all the mono-class aircraft in its fleet.

According to Bautista eight A330-300s will be reconfigured with business, premium economy and economy class seats for medium-haul flights to the Middle East, Japan, Korea, Australia and Honolulu. It will also be furnish with backseat In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) systems covering all classes which the present equipment doesn't provide.

The airline said the seat configuration of the A330 will be less dense than the current product they have.

Meanwhile, the upcoming A321NEOs orders which start arriving in the last quarter of 2017 will also sport backseat IFE's designed for regional destinations as well as medium haul routes to Australia and India.

PAL is currently rated three star by Skytrax.

CEB Newest A330 Carries New Livery

1 December 2016

First 240t A330-300 variant in the Philippines
There will be no Hawaii, Middle East or Australia expansion for this 7th A330-300 of Cebu Pacific, at least not yet, as the airline intends to boost domestic capacity to Cebu and Davao and expand international flight services to select regional destinations in Hong Kong and Singapore out of congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The next two birds however are more capable (240t) than its present sibling (235t) as it has activated center tanks capable of reaching Honolulu with 440 passengers.


Product Compatibility Issues Cited For Woes

30 November 2016

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Etihad Airways (ETD) is heading in opposite direction starting summer of next year if both company fails to salvage its strategic partnership agreement that should have marked a new era of cooperation between the two flag carriers.

The culprit of the airline's trouble appears to be wrong product choices of PAL which add to its woes when passengers started shying away from the airline and opted instead to fly ETD because of better product offers, most notable of which is the absence of In-flight Entertainment (IFE) System to its operating aircraft. ETD offers this product to all passengers regardless of fare classes.

The agreement which supposedly covers code-share flights, loyalty programs, airport lounges, joint sales and marketing programs, a Philippines domestic air pass, cargo, and the coordination of airport operations to provide a better guest experience at their Abu Dhabi and Manila hubs now appears in limbo as PAL failed to match ETD services.

PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista said they will be converting some of the Airbus A330-300's that are used for the middle east flight but until now no product is introduced to the said route citing poor yield despite being given 5th freedom traffic rights from Abu Dhabi to any points in Saudi Arabia.

The Philippine carrier was expected to harmonize products offering with Etihad which it did in the early part of the agreement by fielding a bi-class A330-300 to the route but that strategy failed because of absence of IFE services which Abu Dhabi bound passengers desired.

Etihad Airways’ President and Chief Executive Officer James Hogan is trying to salvage the agreement with Philippine Airlines as it expires in six (6) month's time.

The commercial agreement was signed in Abu Dhabi on 28 April 2014.