TORONTO, Canada—Philippine Airlines (PAL) is increasing its Toronto flights starting next year.
PAL just launched non-stop, thrice-a-week flights between Manila and Toronto on November 30, giving the flag carrier a direct link to Canada’s largest city and its first gateway on the vital East Coast of North America in 15 years. The new service kicks off the peak Christmas travel season, one of the busiest periods in the Philippine travel calendar.
On the return journey, Vancouver-Manila will have a dedicated product four times weekly along with a shared service from Toronto three times weekly. Toronto-Manila, therefore, will be a one-stop service via Vancouver.
The new service triggers a revamp of PAL’s Canadian operation. From November 30, the current daily service between Manila and Vancouver, British Columbia, on Canada’s West Coast, will be revised to four times weekly from Manila to Vancouver alternating with a three-times-weekly non-stop from Manila to Toronto.
Starting January 16, 2013, the Toronto flights will increase to four times a week with stopovers at Vancouver. On March 10, 2013, the service will become daily, with the addition of three non-stop flights every week.
PAL is utilizing its new, long-range Boeing 777-300ER, which seats 42 in business class and 328 in economy class, on the 15-hour, non-stop flight to Toronto. The luxurious wide-body jet is especially designed for such intercontinental journeys. Its two GE 90-115BL engines—the largest and most powerful ever built—can readily cover the 13,230 kilometers between the two cities non-stop. Toronto is now PAL’s 27th international destination and 46th overall.
PAL is also considering increasing flights to the United States and returning to Europe. However, this is not possible at the moment as the Philippines is still placed in the Category 2 status by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) International Aviation Safety Assessment Program.
The Philippines has been on the Category 2 list since 2008 as a result of deficiencies identified in the Universal Safety Oversight Audit program of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The downgrade happened after a safety audit conducted in November 2007 found a total of 23 deficiencies in the Philippines’s air industry regulations. Thus, the country was placed in Category 2 status. As a result, it is the airlines that suffer because they are barred from expanding operations in the United States.
Soon after, the European Union (EU) also raised significant safety concerns that resulted in the banning of Philippine carriers from landing in European airports. The Philippines has also been on the EU banned list since 2010.
PAL President Ramon S. Ang said the flag carrier is eagerly awaiting the lifting of the Category 2 status so it can implement plans to expand operations.
“If the Category 2 is lifted by the FAA we will fly next to New York and other major cities like London, Rome and Paris. We still have to patiently wait for the lifting [of the status],” he told reporters.
In line with its plans to mount long-haul flights, PAL is in talks with Boeing and Airbus for new aircraft.
“We are still in talks with them to acquire long-range aircraft. The first batch which we acquired is mostly for regional destinations [while] the next batch will be mostly for long-haul flights,” added Ang.