September 07, 2018 at 11:15 pm
Joel E. Zurbano
The Philippine Airlines has announced that it was postponing the original Sept. 10 launch of its Manila-Sapporo-Manila route to a new date—Oct. 8 due to a 6.7 magnitude earthquake that struck Hokkaido last Thursday.
At least 16 people were killed in Thursday’s earthquake, according to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Search and rescue teams were still looking for 26 people missing in the western town of Atsuma in Hokkaido Prefecture.
Ma. Cielo Villaluna, PAL corporate communications chief and spokesperson, said affected passengers who have already purchased tickets with flight dates from Sept. 10 to Oct. 7 may rebook within 30 days from Oct. 8, with rebooking service fees waived.
Villaluna said PAL will try to rebook affected passengers on the next available flight dates. She added those with contact details on their Passenger Name Records will be sent notifications via e-mail and/or call-out and/or text message/SMS.
“While rebooking, rerouting and refund service fees within a 30 day period are waived under force majeure situations, fare difference is collected when a passenger rebooks on a higher cabin class,” she said.
Villaluna said the airline will provide regular updates on the situation in Hokkaido by way of PAL Advisories on its Official PAL Facebook page and official website at www.philippineairlines.com.
Two months ago, the flag carrier announced that it will start operating the Manila-Sapporo commercial flight service this month using its newly acquired A321 NEO aircraft.
The Airbus A321 NEO has 12 seats in business class and 156 seats in economy class. The business class cabin boasts generous seat pitch (legroom) of 60 inches and seats that are up to 23 inches wide and recline to become full flat beds, measuring 78 inches in length. The economy cabins offer ample stretching room with a seat pitch of 32 inches.
Aside from Sapporo, the A321 NEOs will also be utilized on non-stop services to Brisbane, New Delhi, and Mumbai.
At present, it is being utilized for Davao and Bangkok flights and will soon be deployed on Hong Kong flights. A total of six A321 NEOs and four Airbus A350-900s will be delivered within 2018.
The new PAL (Sapporo) route will be the only one-stop air link between the Philippines and Sapporo, the capital of the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido is accessible by a high-speed train going to Tokyo.
The nonstop PAL flight service will operate thrice weekly every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, landing at Sapporo’s new Chitose Airport.
PAL vice president for operations Ismael Augusto Gozon said Chitose Airport is about an hour from the dive bars to the city of Sapporo and it is 15 minutes by train, and 60 minutes by water service.
From Manila, PAL currently flies to Fukuoka, Nagoya (Chubu), Osaka (Kansai), and Tokyo (both Narita and Haneda airports); from Cebu, the airline operates flights to Nagoya, Osaka, and Tokyo, Narita.