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PAL considers direct flights to India anew

Katherine Visconti
PAL could restart 6.5 hour direct flights to India, as compared to the current nearly 8 hour flight routed through Thailand

MANILA, Philippines – Local carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is considering restarting direct flights to India’s capital, New Delhi. The move could come in March of 2012 and take advantage of a hoped for increase in tourism between the two countries. 

PAL was forced to discontinue direct flights in October 2011 due to low demand.  

PAL president Jaime Bautista explained: “We stopped our direct flights to India. The load factor for New Delhi direct flights is only 50% while via Bangkok is 70%. We will see in March next year if we will resume our direct flights.”

In the meantime, the airline is hedging its bets and Bautista says that during the decision making process, “We will develop the market while mounting via Bangkok route.”

Restarting the direct route would save travelers time. 

PAL’s current flight to New Delhi is routed through Bangkok and takes nearly 8 hours. The regular schedule is: 

 
Schedule 

 Manila

 (departure) 

 Bangkok

 (arrival) 

 Delhi

 (arrival)

Monday  6:45 pm  9:05 pm  1:10 am
Wednesday  6:45 pm  9:05 pm  1:10 am
Friday  6:45 pm  9:05 pm  1:10 am
 
Schedule 

 Delhi

 (departure) 

 Bangkok

 (arrival) 

 Manila

 (arrival)

Tuesday  2:45 am  8:25 am  1:50 pm
Thursday  2:45 am  8:25 am  1:50 pm
Saturday  2:45 am  8:25 am  1:10 pm

The non-stop flight between the two capitals would take only 6.5 hours.

Background

Flights to India was added to the local carrier’s portfolio after its new planes it had ordered couldn’t be deployed for its profitable long-haul routes to US destinations.

The US aviation regulator, the FAA, had considered its peer body in the Philippines, the CAAP, unfit to oversee and implement safety measures, thus banning Philippine carriers from mounting additional flights to the US.

PAL then had to re-route its new planes to other destinations, including India and Australia. 

The Philippine government had also adopted an “open skies” policy that was meant to remove government to government negotiations of air rights. The policy would even the playing field for local and international airlines, meaning more competition for local carriers, like PAL.

Tourists and other passengers

Data from India’s Ministry of Tourism shows that the number of Indian nationals traveling abroad has more than doubled in the past decade, from only 4.42 million in 2000 to a little over 12 million in 2010. The trend comes on the back of a growing middle class in India with more disposable income for traveling.

Yet the top destinations for Indian travelers in 2010 were the United States and the United Kingdom according to country’s Ministry of Tourism. Still the Philippines’ neighboring Malaysia was the 10th most visited country by Indians and another Asian country, Japan, ranked 8th.

Benefits of the direct flight would cut both ways. The airline could capitalize on more Filipinos traveling to India, one of the fastest-growing major economies.

The question now is whether the number of tourists between the two countries will swell enough to make the direct flight worthwhile. 

On January 1, 2011, the Indian government relaxed visa rules for visitors from the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to attract more tourists. In April, top PAL executives signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Asian Institute of Management Alumni Association to promote tourism, business and educational prospects between India and the Philippines. – Rappler.com