Philippine Airlines after 13 years Fly back to Saudi Arabia; all seats are fully booked

Ambassador Tago (center) lead the ribbon cutting ceremony along with Otham Al Zamil, director for operations and fire service, and Ali Al Rashid, airport manager for terminal operations. (Philippine Embassy photo)

Return of Philippine Airlines flights to KSA get positive response

The resumption of the Philippine Airlines' Manila-Riyadh and Manila-Dammam flights has received positive response, with most flights in December 2013 already fully booked, the Philippine Embassy said in a press statement.

"We are very happy to welcome the Philippine Airlines back to Saudi Arabia, with today's flights to and from Riyadh and on 3 December to and from Dhahran," the statement quoted Ambassador Ezzedin H. Tago as saying on Sunday during the ceremonial ribbon cutting of the Philippine carrier's return.

Tago, together with PAL and Saudi immigration officials, was at Terminal 1 of the King Khalid International Airport on Sunday to welcome the passengers and the crew onboard the first PAL flight non-stop Manila-Riyadh-Manila on Sunday.

He led the ribbon cutting ceremony along with Otham Al Zamil, director for operations and fire service, and Ali Al Rashid, airport manager for terminal operations.

The twin-engine Airbus 330-300 with flight number PR 564 was operated by Captain Jose Reginald David, assisted by Captain Ruel V. Isaac and Second Officer Erik Lee Isaac landed at KKIA at 2:01PM carrying 376 passengers from Manila.

The return flight of PR 655 was fully booked with 391 passengers and departed at 3 p.m. Sunday.

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On Tuesday, PAL will make its inaugural flight at the King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Eastern Province.

PAL first started flying to and from Saudi Arabia on July 3, 1982, landing in Dhahran International Airport and eventually had flights to and from Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah until 2001 when the airlines was hit by a crippling pilots' and ground crew strike.

Filipinos in the western side of the Kingdom, meanwhile, are asking why PAL has not restored its Manila-Jeddah-Manila flight.

PAL has yet to issue a statement on the matter, but industry sources say the airline did not get sufficient booking for the year, unlike in Riyadh and Dammam.

Ambassador Tago said he was hoping that the return of the Philippine Airlines to the Kingdom "will restore further interest in the Philippines among Saudi tourists and provide a more familiar travel option to our kababayans (nationals) in Saudi Arabia."

Tourism to the Philippines from Saudi Arabia has increased steadily over the past three years, with the Philippines increasing its tourism promotion activities in the Gulf region and specially Saudi Arabia.

Flights from Riyadh will leave every Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 1:30 p.m. The flights from Dammam will leave every Monday, Tuesday and Saturday.

PAL's general services agent in Riyadh is Al-Tayyar Travel, while it is Kanoo Travel in Dammam.

Founded in 1941, PAL is Asia's oldest commercial airline and it was one of Asia's biggest until the 1997 Asian financial crisis forced it to drastically slash its international operations, reducing its fleet and laying off thousands of employees.

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In 1998, it had to be placed under receivership, which it eventually exited in 2007 after its financial stability was ensured.

With the takeover of PAL by San Miguel Corporation, one of the Philippines' biggest companies, industry watchers are predicting an eventual return of the flag carrier to its old glory. – The Arab News

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