Philippine Aviation News, a number of Aircraft sitting idle at Clark Airport
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines has some fish to fry at present. Its future ownership hangs over its head. The refleeting program has not in all respects gone smoothly, with a number of Aircraft sitting idle at Clark Airport about 80 kilometres from Metro Manila. PAL continues to face intense competition from domestic market leader Cebu Pacific and Internationally from a host of other Asian and Middle Eastern carriers.
That said, PAL's situation is not totally bleak. Unlike Garuda Indonesia that recently announced an alarming US$212 million quarterly loss, PAL turned in a rare quarter of profits, even if the Figure was not earth shattering. Costs have been cut as PAL uses its fuel efficient six Boeing 777-300ER planes to the US and Canada, although passengers on the Manila London, Melbourne and Sydney routes are now saddled with elderly, non IFE equipped Airbus A340-300 Aircraft in lieu.
Nonetheless, in a sea of south east Asian Airlines, PAL remains an oddity. It remains the only major legacy Airline in the region that is not a member of one of the three major Airline alliances Oneworld, SkyTeam or Star Alliance. Although PAL's history dating back to 1941 as Asia's first Airline has earned the carrier a strong profile, making it better known in south east Asian than Star Alliance members such as Shenzen Airlines, or even on an International scale, better known than Slovenia's Adria Airways, the Philippine flag carrier could be forgiven for believing that it has missed an important opportunity considering that the majority of its competitors have all joined one of these alliances.
The three Airline alliances jealously guard the cost of membership. All three claim that quality is the number one determinant of membership, although one alliance let the cat out of the bag a little when it stated on its website that it would like to find suitable members in Brazil and India, suggesting that geographic spread is indeed important.
If PAL attempted to join one of these three Airline alliances, it would face some hindrances. All presently have a good number of Airlines flying to Philippines. SkyTeam has China Southern, Delta, KLM, Korean and Saudia that fly to the land of 7,107 islands. Oneworld has Cathay Pacific, Japan Air Lines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, and recent member, Qatar. Star Alliance arguably has the cream of the crop servicing the Philippines with Singapore Airlines, Asiana, United and Thai among others.
The only additional benefits that a Philippine Airlines membership could offer any of these alliances would be non stop Flights from Manila to locations such as London Heathrow and Melbourne, along with a reasonable number of domestic Flights between Manila and other cities such as Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and Davao.
Membership in an Airline alliance is no guarantee of commercial success for an Airline and its shareholders. Defunct Airline Mexicana has not flown since 2010 but is strangely listed on the Oneworld website as an inactive member. Another Oneworld member, Qantas, is set to annonce an A$700 million to $1 billion loss later this week. Star Alliance member Singapore Airlines is reportedly declining, and profits are small.
Philippine Airlines has instead employed a recent strategy to enter into a commercial agreement with fast growing Etihad Airways of the Middle East. So far, it has been restricted to a limited number of international routes such as Manila Abu Dhabi and around 20 Filipino routes, but the intention is that over time it will expand, as will Etihad's partnership network.
This seems the right strategy for PAL, although it has not explained the costs versus any positive revenue implications. Overall, though, PAL must get its own house in order before it tries to achieve greater status in its management's eyes by attempting to become a member of one of these alliances. As signs in Australian milk bars used to say Please do not ask for credit. A refusal often offends.
Philippine Aviation News a number of Aircraft sitting idle,
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Metro Manila idle Aircraft,
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Mohini Porwal [ B Sc]
Trainee News Editor
Philipines Aviation News Editor