Philippine Airlines To Offer Direct Manila, Saipan Flights Soon

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Airline says it’s in CNMI ‘to stay’

By Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 19, 2016) – Philippine Airlines, which will be offering direct flights between Manila and Saipan in June, said that they are "here to stay" and that they are hoping to increase the frequency of their flights should there be a demand.

Representatives from the Philippines’ flag carrier visited Saipan this week to meet with the tour agents and inform them of the return of their services to the island.

"The feedback is very positive especially with our kababayans (countrymen). They find it really difficult to go back to our motherland because they need to stop somewhere else. With PAL soon launching direct flights, it will be much more convenient and we cut the travel time more than half," Ryan Uy told Saipan Tribune in a sit-down interview.

PAL used to offer the same direct flights in the ’80s. About a year after talks to return with the services, PAL will now have its inaugural flight in June 15.

Using Airbus A-320 PAL will be offering a twice weekly full-service flights departing Manila every Wednesday and Sunday at 9:20pm and arriving on Saipan at 3:35am local time the following day. Flights will depart Saipan every Thursday and Monday at 4:35am local time and arrive in Manila at 6:45am.

"And it’s not only Manila, we can bring our kababayans to the entire Philippines because PAL does have 29 domestic destinations," Uy said.

Uy said the departure and arrival times are perfect for travelers to maximize their travel time as it matches with most of the domestic flights in the Philippines. PAL said it allows two pieces of baggage even to domestic flights of 50 lbs each.

Tourism for both countries

In Guam, PAL area manager for Guam, CNMI and FSM Maryann Cabreros, said that they are doing very well.

"From five, now we’re daily. We upgraded our aircraft from airbus 320 to 321 which is a 198-seater," Cabreros said.

Asked if daily flights would also be a possibility for Saipan, Uy said "why not?"

"If we can capture the entire Asian market and bring them to Saipan, I think it’s possible. There’s a lot of work to be done, and support from the government as well," Uy said.

Uy added that if the visa waiver program or parole authority will also be given to Filipinos as well as other Asians such as Thais and Indonesians, it would result in an increase in arrivals.

PAL said it is looking at increasing their frequency.

"We’re here to stay. We look forward to increasing our frequency if the demand is there. We can only do that if we get the support of our countrymen and also if we can get the support of all the locals to visit our beautiful country, the Philippines, and use Manila as a hub to Asia, China, Australia, Middle East, Europe, and even Canada," Uy said.

"Manila is a perfect hub area. As you know PAL does have its own terminal, very convenient, and with the casino resorts that have been opening lately, it can give an easy stopover option for Manila before going to their final destination in Asia," he added.

To contribute to tourism on both destinations, PAL is working with both the Philippines’ Department of Tourism and CNMI’s Marianas Visitors Authority.

"We’re looking forward to the support of the Department of Tourism. We will be inviting them to do a roadshow here on Saipan because we need to educate the market. We need to let them know how beautiful the Philippines is," Uy said. "Likewise, we met with the Marianas Visitors Authority and they’re very supportive. They’re committed to help us promote Saipan in the Philippines as well as in the nearby Asian countries."

Uy said they are hoping for better outcome of their venture.

"If I may quote Jerry Tan, we came in at the right timing because the economy on Saipan is good, the economy is strong and the tourists are coming to Saipan, picking up very strong. We hope to realize all those opportunities," Uy said.

PAL partnered with Century Travel as its general sales agent in the CNMI.

"We know how efficient Tan Holdings is in terms of their businesses on Saipan. Every new operations, we need to have very reliable and dependable partners and I think there is no other partner in Saipan that can do it than the Tan Holdings group because they can also handle both inbound and outbound," Uy said.

Until Feb. 29, PAL has a promo rate of $480 roundtrip airfare for flights from June onwards.

"We’re calling on all our kababayans to give their support to Philippine Airlines. We know they always look forward to visit the Philippines and visit their families. We are here to help them make that happen in a more convenient, more efficient, and more affordable way," Uy said.

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