Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) may launch flights to Israel within the year, helping to bolster tourism and trade while providing an easier means for Filipinos to achieve their Holy Land “bucket lists”.
Manuel Tamayo, undersecretary for aviation at the Department of Transportation, said they were finalizing certain details for PAL to carry out flights between Manila and Tel Aviv by the first quarter of 2019.
“It’s a seasonal market,” said Tamayo, adding that for some Filipinos, it is their goal to visit the Holy Land. He said PAL was studying assigning flights during the cooler months.
Tamayo added that the Philippines was currently working on securing a final agreement with Saudi Arabia to use the latter’s airspace. This, he said, would cut flights to Tel Aviv by more than an hour.
A flight between Manila and Tel Aviv without using Saudi Arabia’s airspace could take around 12 and a half hours, according to Airplane Manager, which provides calculations for the air charter industry.
Last April, PAL president Jaime Bautista confirmed a plan to launch flights to Israel.
Israel’s Ministry of Tourism director Hassan Madah had said that Filipino tourists to Israel more than doubled to 23,500 between 2015 and 2017. They mainly flew through the Hong Kong and Turkish flag carriers.
Plans to launch a route to Israel have been on the table since 2013. In November that year, both countries sealed a bilateral agreement that resulted in 21 weekly flights to any point in the Philippines and Israel.
That deal replaced a previous air service agreement sealed in 1951. PAL flew to Israel in the 1950s and 1960s, Civil Aeronautics Board executive director Carmelo Arcilla had said.
Tamayo noted that PAL was also looking to launch flights to more points in the United States.
PAL had previously announced future plans to fly to the US cities of Chicago or Seattle. It currently has routes to Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS