Eyes big slice of pie in East Coast
New York celebrated the return of Philippine Airlines to the U.S. East Coast with a dinner reception at the New York Hilton Midtown on March 16 to mark PAL’s inaugural New York-Manila flight. From left, PAL Executive Vice President Stewart Lim, Transportation Undersecretary Jose Lotilla, Philippine ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia, Jr., PAL Chairman Dr. Lucio C. Tan, Philippine Tourism Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon Jr. and Philippine Airlines President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista.
Special to the Filipino Reporter
With the Philippine Airlines (PAL) New York to Manila (via Vancouver) flight now in full swing from JFK Airport’s Terminal 1, the oldest carrier in Asia hopes to get a large share of the North American market, including the estimated 253,000 Filipinos in the New York-New Jersey area alone, as it also aims to further boost tourism arrivals in the Philippines.
“We’re happy that we’re back in New York. It’s a dream that PAL serves this important geographic market,” remarked Jaime J. Bautista, president and chief operating officer of PAL at a press conference Monday afternoon (March 16) shortly before celebrating this week’s inaugural flight at the Mercury Ballroom of the New York Hilton, attended by several dignitaries and dozens of travel executives and members of the press.
Dr. Lucio C. Tan, PAL chairman and chief executive officer, led the event with the 70-member high-level delegation of government and airline officials who were all on board the maiden flight that left Manila close to midnight on March 15.
The brand new Boeing 777-300ER stopped for two hours in Vancouver before heading to JFK Airport.
“This is a joint effort of the Philippine Airlines and the Philippine Department of Tourism,” Tan said in his speech at the Hilton ballroom.
“This celebration also coincides with PAL’s 74th founding anniversary.”
PAL made its inaugural flight to Baguio City on March 17, 1941, with a single Beechcraft Model 18 NPC-54 carrying 10 passengers.
Philippine Tourism Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon Jr. lauded the “timely” re-entry of PAL in the East Coast market to promote the “Visit Philippines 2015” campaign.
“This is certainly a proud moment for PAL, for Philippine tourism and for all the Filipino people,” Bengzon told the press.
The Philippine flag carrier is now flying four times a week between Manila and New York, with a two-hour transit stop in Vancouver.
It uses an Airbus A340-300 which seats 218 economy passengers, plus 36 in the business class.
From left, Philippine ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia, Jr., Philippine Airlines President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista, Consul General Mario de Leon, Jr., Philippine Tourism Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon Jr. and Consul General Emil Fernandez (Washington, D.C.). (Filipino Reporter photo)
Flight PR126 departs New York every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and arrives in Vancouver at 1:50 p.m.
The flight then leaves at 3:20 p.m. and arrives in Manila the next day at 8:35 p.m.
It departs Manila every Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, arriving the following day at Terminal 1 of JFK Airport.
Covering a distance of 14,501 kilometers or approximately 18.5 total flying hours, it is now PAL’s longest route and fifth U.S. destination after Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu and Guam.
PAL was first introduced in the East Coast (at Newark Liberty International Airport) in September 1996 with a lavish inauguration and high expectations.
But the carrier decided to abruptly end its service a year later due to “aeropolitical issues” and Asian financial crisis, according to Bautista.
Its plan to re-enter the U.S. East Coast was put on the fast track after the Philippines was restored to Category 1 status by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April last year.
Bautista said the Philippine flag carrier has successfully implemented reforms — including improved ontime performance, enhanced security measures, and aggressive refleeting program — that have helped regain the trust and confidence of the FAA and the international community.
He said PAL is already eyeing on increasing its flight frequency to the Big Apple seven times a week although the carrier’s existing agreement with the U.S. and Canada limits PAL’s flight to a maximum of five a week.
“Our people wanted a daily flight, but we’re still in the development stage and we’ll start with four flights a week, then five,” Bautista said, “then we’ll work with Canada and U.S. authorities to have more flight entitlements.”
Travel specialist Hector De Guia of Balikbayan Travel Services in Jersey City, N.J. said he believes PAL’s New York-Vancouver-Manila flight will be a hit among passengers who have connecting flights to various provinces across the Philippines.
“If I’m flying from New Jersey and my final destination is Iloilo, it’s going to be easier and less time consuming because PAL can easily arrange the connecting flight from Manila to Iloilo or any other part of the country,” De Guia pointed out at the reception dinner.
Philippine ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia, Jr. said the “triumphant” return of PAL to the East Coast deserves the support of all Filipino communities in North America.
He said it is also an opportunity for all Pinoy expatriates to help disseminate the good news about the Philippines as today’s hottest destination in Asia.
Michelle Dy, head of the Philippine tourism office in New York, delivered a power point presentation, particularly the wildly successful “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign brand that has received numerous international citations as among the best in the world, and continues to beef up the number of Philippine tourism arrivals placed at over 4.8 million in 2014, from 3.5 million in 2010.
Consul General Mario de Leon, Jr. said the huge Fil-Am community in the Eastern Seaboard has been keenly anticipating the return of PAL since it first made a splash in the area 18 years ago.
Philippine ambassador to the U.S. Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., with Philippine Airlines President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista and members of the crew of Philippine Airlines Flight 127 from New York to Manila, shortly before its departure at John F. Kennedy International Airport Monday. (Philippine Embassy photo by Emil Fernandez)
During the New York Hilton gathering hosted by Concert King Martin Nievera, who also serenaded the packed ballroom, PAL led by Tan and Bautista formally honored its first international stewardess who served on the first Manila to California flight on July 31, 1946.
Rebecca “Becky” Verzosa-Santos was only 22 when she made history as the only Filipino and the lone flight attendant on the first trans-Pacific flight of Philippine Airlines.
Now 92 years old and living in Manhattan as a retired United Nations staffer, the U.P. Diliman alumna said she’s extremely honored to have been reunited with her PAL “family.”
After recounting her unforgettable experience with PAL, Tan presented her a round-trip business class ticket to the Philippines.
Four lucky guests also went home with free tickets to the Philippines and Vancouver from a raffle draw, while everyone in the event received assorted PAL souvenirs and giveaways.
Philippine Airlines Flight 127 preparing to depart from Terminal One of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. (Philippine Embassy photo by Emil Fernandez)
During the dinner reception celebrating the return of Philippine Airlines to New York on March 16, PAL Chairman Dr. Lucio C. Tan (left) and PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista (right) gave honor to Rebecca Verzosa-Santos (2nd from right), PAL’s first international stewardess who flew on the first Manila to California flight in 1946. Also shown is Mrs. Carmen K. Tan.
Philippine ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia, Jr. (left) leads the Filipino community in welcoming the return of Philippine Airlines to New York during a dinner reception at the New York Hilton Midtown on March 16. Shown seated during the formal dinner are PAL Chairman Dr. Lucio C. Tan and Mrs. Carmen K. Tan.