MANILA (UPDATE) – With the US Federal Aviation Administration's upgrade of the Philippines' civil aviation status to Category 1, the country's carriers can now open new direct flights to the United States.
Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said the upgrade is seen to boost the Philippine tourism industry and allow airlines to expand their operations.
Philippine air carriers can now open more flights to the United States and have additional routes such as flying to the East Coast.
Philippine Airlines (PAL), which already has existing routes to the US West Coast, can expand flights to major cities in the East Coast such as New York.
PAL president Ramon Ang said the airline's Manila-New York flights will resume within a year.
With the upgrade, PAL can also increase flight frequencies to and from the US, as well as use more fuel-efficient planes.
For its Los Angeles and San Francisco flights, PAL will switch to the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
“For PAL, definitely we will be able to use our new aircraft from now on going to Los Angeles, San Francisco, this will mean at least $100 million a year savings on fuel and another $60 million a year savings on maintenance,” Ang said on Thursday.
Ang said PAL will continue to use its Airbus 330s to Honolulu and Guam.
The upgrade also paves the way for other airlines such as Cebu Pacific to start flights to the US.
Cebu Pacific president Lance Gokongwei, meanwhile, said the airline’s first US destinations will most likely be to Guam or Saipan, noting that Cebu Pacific does not have an aircraft that can directly reach the West Coast.
He said US flights of Cebu Pacific may be mounted within the year.
On Thursday, the European Union also officially lifted the ban on Cebu Pacific, making the Gokongwei-led budget carrier the second local airline allowed to fly to Europe.