On March 15, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of Philippine Airlines (PAL), members of the Cebu media, along with travel agents from the Visayas and Mindanao, took PAL’s first nonstop flight from Cebu to Los Angeles.
The passengers were treated to cocktails and sent off with a water cannon salute on the tarmac—a fitting celebration of a historically significant occasion for PAL and Cebu.
It was on March 15, 1941 when the national carrier took its inaugural flight from the Nielsen airfield in Makati to Baguio.
And just last year, also on March 15, PAL opened its direct route from Manila to New York.
Thrice weekly flights
“It’s becoming a habit,” PAL president and chief operating officer Jimmy Bautista told the Philippine and US media at a press conference held in the Philippe Starck-designed SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills after the Cebu-LA flight.
The presscon—presided over by PAL external communications group head Cielo Villaluna—also gathered a group of panelists composed of PAL senior vice president (SVP)-airline operations Nicky Gozon, SVP-commercial group David Lim, VP-marketing Ria Domingo, and Department of Tourism (DOT) Asst. Secretary for Tourism Development Planning Rolando Canizal.
Bautista pointed out that with PAL was adding a thrice-weekly Cebu-LA route that departs Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. from Cebu and 8:40 p.m. from LA, the country’s flag carrier now has 40 flights per week from the US.
He said, “Our goal is to make PAL the airline of choice in all the markets we service, one that exceeds passenger expectations. We want PAL to be a source of pride for Filipinos.”
To get it closer to that goal, PAL has enhanced its in-flight services with the myPAL WiFi, which allows passengers to surf the Net, and myPAL Mobile, which enables calling and texting on passengers’ own mobile phones.
“These services are being rolled out in phases although we’ve already started implementing them in some of our flights,” said Domingo.
PAL is also collaborating with top chefs Jessie Sincioco, Fernando Aracama, Wataru Hikawa, Ben Lam, Bruce Lim and Yoon Yun-sun to make in-flight meals tastier.
A boost to Cebu tourism
To make its 75th anniversary truly significant, PAL has added its 75th aircraft to its fleet.
And along with such a milestone as the Cebu-LA route, this year is likewise turning out to be just as big for the Queen City of the South.
The new Cebu-LA direct flights will apparently position PAL as an attractive choice for a significant number of
Cebuanos who otherwise opt for regional airlines that fly out of Hong Kong, Seoul or Singapore just to avoid the inconvenience at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.
This welcome development is expected to boost Cebu’s tourism industry. At the inauguration ceremony, DOT Region 7 director Rowena Montecillo said that her office has doubled its efforts to promote Cebu as a destination. “We hope this service will last a lifetime,” she quipped.
Andrew Acquaah Harrison, chief executive advisor of GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation, added: “People told us it was impossible. Who would fly direct from Cebu to LA?”
As it turned out, PAL was the answer.
GMR Megawide is the Indian-Filipino consortium that won the bid to rehabilitate and upgrade the Mactan Cebu International Airport. It has been credited for achieving what seemed to be an overnight transformation.
With PAL’s Cebu-LA route, GMR Megawide has been able to check one thing off its to-do list of increased connectivity from Cebu to everywhere else in the world.
GMR Megawide had to implement additional security measures and get accreditations from the Transportation Security Administration to fly direct from Cebu to the US. Now that the groundwork has been laid out, it’s really only a matter of time before Cebu opens itself up to other long-haul international destinations.
Cebuano on PA system
For the Cebuanos on board, the maiden Cebu-LA flight was not only convenient, but sentimental, too.
For the first time in history, a 13-hour flight was taking off from Cebu itself.
There was also the company of fellow Bisaya, like PAL senior assistant vice president for Philippine sales Harry Inoferio, area head for Visayas sales Chris Lebumfacil, and a Cebuano-speaking crew headed by captain Butch Generoso.
And then there was the heartwarming experience of hearing Cebuano being spoken through the plane’s PA system, as well as enjoying its business-class comforts such as the fully-reclining seats, and savoring Carmen’s Best ice cream.
PAL’s vote of confidence in Cebu as a market and a destination serve as a reminder that the province is no longer a small town, and that from this island, the world is now within direct reach.