Tuesday, June 3, 2008

PAL plans Persian Gulf Flights

Philippine Airlines (PAL) is planning to re-introduce flights to Bahrain and other Persian Gulf countries within the next two years, the airline's president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista told the GDN. He revealed details of the plan two years after the airline discontinued its flights to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and 14 years after the Bahrain route was scrapped.

The expansion, which will include flights to other Middle East countries outside the GCC, will coincide with a major expansion in the next two years - with PAL planning to buy an additional 30 planes.

Mr Bautista said "operational difficulties" and "over capacity" had led to PAL slowly cancelling operations to several Arab countries, including Bahrain, in the last 10 to 12 years."We are now conducting talks with our partners in the region to determine how best to re-start operations and how many flights to have," he said. "We are also talking with Civil Aviation Affairs officials in Bahrain and other parts of the region."We stopped Bahrain operations in 1994, Abu Dhabi a few years later and finally Riyadh was scrapped two years ago. "We were always keen to serve the Filipino community in Bahrain and the other countries in the region, but had to withdraw due to operational reasons.

"Now, since we are expanding all over the world and getting a lot of new aircraft, an expansion into the region is very much on the cards."Mr Bautista was in Bahrain en route to Istanbul, Turkey, to attend a meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).He said PAL already had several code-sharing agreements with carriers in the region, operating around 60 such flights to several Middle Eastern destinations.

It is now seeking to expand its own fleet from 39 aircraft to 59 by the end of 2010 - almost doubling the size of the airline."PAL still has and will continue to have one of the youngest fleets in the region," he added.PAL has recently been named "Airline Turnaround of the Year 2007" by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (Capa), a Sydney-based aviation think-tank, for successfully graduating from rehabilitation and returning to sustained profitability."

Few airlines have reformed themselves so comprehensively as PAL," added Mr Bautista."An unflinching cost focus, network focus and superb productivity enhancement have provided us the platform to profitably expand and establish a strong position in the region's aviation industry."

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