MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) on Monday morning embarked on a special flight to Rome with a very important guest, Pope Francis.
On Monday morning, thousands of Filipinos gathered along the streets leading to the airport for a last glimpse of the Pope.
After a brief send-off led at the Villamor Air Base led by President Aquino, the Supreme Pontiff boarded Airbus A340 jet at 9:50 a.m.
The PAL crew was led by Capt. Manuel Antonio Tamayo and Flight Purser Jeanette Perez.
The plane carrying the Pope, dubbed as "Shepherd One", was airborne at 10:13 a.m.
It is protocol that when the Pope leaves a country, he will ride a plane from its flagship airline.
There are currently no direct flights between the Philippines and Italy by a Philippine carrier. In 2013, the two countries agreed to increase the number of flights, after the European Union lifted a ban it imposed preventing the airlines from the Philippines from operating in Europe.
Earlier, PAL had announced it was planning to fly to Rome and other European destinations. So far, PAL only has direct flights from Manila to London.
On Saturday, Pope Francis flew to Tacloban via a Philippine Airlines A320 jet.
PAL had hosted Pope John Paul II during his 1981 and 1995 pastoral visits to the Philippines.
In 1981, PAL flew Pope John Paul to six provincial stations within three days. A special Papal chamber was fitted on the DC-10 aircraft that flew him to Guam and Haneda after his visit.
In 1995, PAL again flew Pope John Paul II to Port Moresby after a four-day visit that was restricted to Manila for health reasons.
PAL has also kept a collection of memorabilia of inflight items used by Pope John Paul II, who is now a saint, on his flights.