PAL eyes flights to BRIC bloc

By Jun Vallecera, BusinessMirror

Posted at Jan 21 2013 07:29 AM | Updated as of Jan 21 2013 03:29 PM

MANILA - Flag-carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) has asked the government to seek an air-services agreement with the South American economic powerhouse Brazil and renew or update six other existing air treaties with other countries as it pushes forward with its 100-aircraft refleeting program.

PAL first told the Philippine Air Consultations and Air Negotiations Panel at the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) more than a year ago about its plan to embark on the massive multiyear refleeting program to make Manila a global aviation hub with a strengthened global network of air services.

Its acceptance of an initial delivery of Airbus A320 and Boeing B777-ER aircraft this year has made the pursuit and closure of those air treaties more urgent than ever, PAL Senior Assistant Vice President for External Affairs Ma. Socorro P. Gonzaga said in a letter to the government negotiating panel.

As part of the four emerging-market powerhouses known as the BRIC (for Brazil, Russia, India and China), the South American nation of 195 million presents huge opportunities for the flag-carrier.

Gonzaga said that the BRIC bloc of countries is an essentially untapped market for PAL and the airline looks forward to signing its first-ever air-travel agreement with the South American country.

Meanwhile, she called on the government to urgently renegotiate its air treaty with the Italian government to open a new route beyond Rome and allow access to Milan, a widely acknowledged financial center.

PAL plans daily flights to Milan with its long-haul Airbus A320s and Boeing B777-ERs as the existing air rights to Rome is considered restrictive in terms of flight capacity and frequency.

Gonzaga said that the government could ride on goodwill generated by the recent visit to Manila by French Prime Minister Francois Hollande and overhaul Manila’s 1986 air treaty with Paris, paving the way for unconditional daily flights to the Charles de Gaulle airport in the French capital.

She noted PAL has signed firm orders for 64 aircraft from Toulouse-based Airbus/EADS as part of its larger refleeting program.

The 1951 air treaty with Israel also needs to be renegotiated, according to Gonzaga. She cited the Holy Land being home to some 39,000 overseas Filipino workers and an important pilgrimage and tourist destination.

PAL also seeks air rights to Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa, with whom the Philippines has a 1997 framework for flights to the two cities.

Then there is the matter of the so-called onerous royalty requirement imposed by the Russian government for Moscow to grant PAL overflight rights to Siberia and central Russia.

PAL needs to fly non-stop to several Western European cities but it has to pay a hefty price for such rights over the huge Russian airspace.

It has asked the government to intensify diplomatic efforts to lift the ban on additional charter and commercial runs as well as start as soon as possible air talks to secure new rights and slots to Tokyo Haneda, Narita and other Japanese airports.