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PAL works to ease Manila congestion headache

Philippine Airlines (PAL) will shortly submit its proposal to the government to develop an annex to Terminal 2 at Manila Ninoy Acquino International airport, part of a range of measures it is taking to combat congestion at its key hub.

“In our own ways we try to contribute to the reduction of congestion in our terminal,” explained airline president Jaime Bautista, during an interview with FlightGlobal in London. “We have moved some of our flights from terminal 2 to terminal 1. All our Middle East flights are now in terminal 1, except Dubai – and it has reduced the congestion in terminal 2.

“We are the only airline that operates in three terminals [at Manila]. It has given some advantage to our competitors in terms of costs, but we have to do that because of that’s the only way for us to grow the market," he says.

PAL's passenger numbers increased 12% in 2016 to reach 13.35 million - a third consecutive year of double-digit growth. It has continued to grow by around 16% so far this year.

The airline recently outlined a strategic goal of lifting passenger numbers to 20 million by 2021, a plan under which it would grow its fleet to 96 aircraft. "The growth [needed] is an average of 8-10%," says Bautista. "Right now we are carrying 15 million passengers. The next few years we can easily reach 20 million passengers in the next five years."

But the airline does note meeting this growth also requires government action to address congestion at Manila.

At the start of September the airline floated a proposal to build an annex to Terminal 2 – capable of handling 15 million passengers and taking total capacity at the terminal to 27 million. “We still need to submit our proposals. We are working on it now – and if its approved, maybe it will take two years for it to be built,” he says.

But he adds runway congestion is also an issue slowing growth at the airport. “I am happy the government is doing their share in improving the efficiency of the runway. They are constructing some rapid exits from the runway that would mean two or three additional flights per hour,” he says.

Congestion at Manila’s main hub airport has prompted PAL to develop its network at secondary airports. The airline has just detailed plans to launch eight new domestic routes out of Clark and Cebu.

“We have mounted more flights out of these mini-hub, and it has contributed to the growth of the airline. These are mostly point-to-point services. Hub and spoke is still in Manilla,” Bautista says.

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