PH carriers seek more flight entitlements to major Japan cities

By Lawrence Agcaoili, The Philippine Star

Posted at Sep 23 2013 07:56 AM | Updated as of Sep 23 2013 03:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Major players in the airline industry are scrambling for flight entitlements to major cities in Japan where about 250,000 Filipinos are working and living after the signing of a new air service agreement between the Philippines and Japan.

National flag carrier Philippine Airlines Inc. (PAL) together with PAL Express, budget airline Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific), Tiger Airways Philippines as well as sister firms AirAsia and Zest Airways Inc. have filed a consolidated application before the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) for allocation of flight entitlements to Japan.

PAL, jointly owned by taipan Lucio Tan and diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), is looking at flying to Narita 14 times a week starting Oct. 27 and 14 times a week to Haneda starting March next year via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

PAL Express (formerly AirPhil Express) is set to fly to Haneda 14 times a week and to Narita seven times a week via NAIA. It is also looking at flying to Narita via the Mactan Cebu international airport.

PAL is in the middle of an ambitious refleeting program aimed at acquiring 100 new aircraft and is preparing to set up a $500 wholly-owned aircraft leasing firm.

Cebu Pacific is set to mount flights to nine major cities in Japan via Manila and Cebu starting February next year.

The listed budget airline is looking at flying to Haneda seven times a week and Narita via NAIA starting February next year after which it would fly to Fukuoka in April, Okinawa in May, and Nagoya in June.

In October next year, Cebu Pacific would fly to Hiroshima and Sapporo via NAIA and to the cities of Narita and Kansai via Cebu. It also intends to fly to Nagoyo via Cebu by December next year.

Cebu Pacific is in a middle of a $4 billion refleeting program involving the delivery of 49 Airbus aircraft between this year and 2021 to augment its existing fleet of 47 aircraft.

Tiger Airways Philippines, formerly Southeast Asian Airlines Inc., is set to fly to the cities of Narita and Osaka via NAIA, the Clark International Airport in Pampanga, and the Kalibo International Airport in Aklan. It is seeking 56 flight coefficients from the CAB.

On the other hand, Zest Airways – jointly owned by Ambassador Alfredo Yao’s AMCY Holdings and AirAsia Inc. Philippines – hopes to fly to the cities of Narita, Osaka and Nagoya via Manila, Kalibo, and Cebu starting October next year as it seeks 32 flight coefficients.

Last Sept. 13, the Philippines and Japan concluded a memorandum of understanding (CMOU), lifting a ban preventing airlines from the Philippines from mounting additional flights to Japan.

The new air service agreement increased the number of flights between Manila and Narita to a total maximum 400 per week from the previous 119 and allowed 14 flights per week between Manila and Haneda.

The agreement also called for unlimited air traffic rights between points in the Philippines except Manila and points in Japan except Haneda.

“This is a major breakthrough, especially since Japan is a major and third biggest tourism market for the Philippines, and also since the last talks was held in 2008, and the current Philippine entitlements are almost fully utilized,” CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said earlier.