PAL, NMI officials aim for lasting partnership

CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, right, accepts a Philippine Airlines scale model jetplane from PAL Express’ Bonifacio Sam in yesterday’s arrival ceremony of the Philippine carrier’s inaugural Manila-Saipan flight at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport. (Jon Perez)

CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, right, accepts a Philippine Airlines scale model jetplane from PAL Express’ Bonifacio Sam in yesterday’s arrival ceremony of the Philippine carrier’s inaugural Manila-Saipan flight at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport. (Jon Perez)

Except for a one-hour delay in arrival and overbooking, Philippine Airlines’ inaugural flight went smoothly yesterday. PAL’s inaugural direct flight from Manila touched down at around 4:45am early Thursday morning with its maiden trip back to the Philippine capital leaving less than an hour later.

It’s PAL’s first time to fly direct to Manila from Saipan and vice-versa after close to 20 years. PAL used to fly to Saipan but stopped its operations.

PAL’s new Airbus A320 can seat 156 passengers not including the flight crew—pilots and stewardesses.

Exciting partnership

PAL Express president Bonifacio Sam, who came in the maiden Manila-Saipan flight together with CNMI Lt. Gov. Victor B. Hocog and Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Chris Concepcion, said the Philippines’ flag carrier finally landing again at the Franciso C. Ada/Saipan International Airport is “a proud moment.”

He added that the maiden flight is the culmination of the collective efforts of PAL, industry stalwarts, stakeholders, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Tourism, the CNMI government, the Commonwealth Ports Authority, and the MVA.

“The new service is a much-awaited link between the Philippines and Saipan, which is home to more than 20,000 Filipinos. The direct flight is not only for Filipinos but also for CNMI residents and leisure travelers who can now go in and out with ease non stop on board a modern Airbus with efficient class and economy while experiencing our heartfelt Filipino service,” Sam said.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, who was among the local officials who welcomed PAL executives, said PAL’s new hub in the Western Pacific is not only an opportunity for another tourism market but also for the CNMI’s medical referral program.

“We have a lot of guest workers here from the Philippines. It is also a great opportunity to fly direct to the Philippines especially for our patients under the medical referral program. There would no longer be waiting in transit in other hubs,” said Torres.

“We’re going to make sure PAL succeed and were going to work with all entities involved. This is a good partnership.”

Easy for Pinoys

Filipino workers who are going back to Manila for vacation will now fly direct unlike before, where they would either transit in Guam, Incheon in Korea, or in Narita in Japan.

“Now it would be more convenient for us to go back to Manila. Before we need to stop a few hours in Guam. We’re all excited to see how it feels to fly via PAL,” said Toothworks dental therapist Caroline Marzan, who will go on a three-week vacation with her two daughters.

Realty Management Services employee Alberto Dans also welcomed PAL’s return to Saipan. “It is much better since you will no longer stay too long in an airport. Flying direct also lessens travel time.”

Josie Cunanan, who has been working on Saipan for 24 years, said she is proud to support the Philippines’ flag carrier. “Let’s support our own. I’m personally happy that we’ll no longer have to wait that long with the direct flights especially if there are emergency cases. No more connecting flights.”

Ella Alexander, who was the last passenger to check in, also lauded PAL’s decision to resume its direct flights. “It will save you a lot of time and you also maximize your time. It is a better alternative and service especially for Filipinos.”

“It is also a welcome news for the CNMI. I really expected a long line since there are a lot of passengers but it’s worth the wait.”

For recording artist Aicelle Santos, who arrived in the Manila-Saipan flight, the new destination gives Filipino tourists another place to visit to escape the daily grind of work and stress especially for nature lovers.

“I’m really excited to finally visit Saipan. I just want to swim and see what the island has to offer,” said Santos, who arrived with her manager Judith Bueno. She will also be singing in tonight’s gala dinner at the Hibiscus Hall of the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan.

Additional hub

PAL marketing activations manager Pinky Custodio said Saipan is the 43rd destination under the PAL Express brand in a network that spans Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Oceania, and the United States.

“What we usually do is we go all over the world, I have my own team of seven people, where we explore and open inaugural flights in other cities. The Saipan-Manila direct flights is one of our newest ones,” said Custodio, who attended yesterday’s ceremony with marketing activations officer Kookai Silverio.

“We also introduced [a package] where you can go to two countries in one trip. Like a few weeks ago, we launched a Manila-Taipei-Osaka flight. People who will go to Taipei will also get the chance to visit Osaka. We also have a Manila-Cairns, Australia-Oakland flight.”

She said that the flights received a good reception from passengers. “It is hitting two birds, in one stone or visiting two countries in one trip,” she added with a smile.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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