September 26, 2018 at 11:20 pm
Joel E. Zurbano
The New York-based Airline Passenger Experience Association gave Philippine Airlines a 4-Star Major Regional Airline rating award during a special ceremony held in Boston, USA on Monday.
The new 4-Star honors given by the world-renowned and non-profit airline customer association is the latest in a string of international victories notched by the Filipino flag carrier.
These recognitions include the 4-Star Global Airline certification from London-based Skytrax in February 2018 and a “2nd Most Improved Airline in the World” ranking from the annual Skytrax passenger survey released in June 2018.
The APEX award is the result of a fully “Certified, Validated, Verified” rating program based on passenger feedback on PAL’s overall flight experience in five sub-categories: seat comfort, cabin service, food and beverage, entertainment and Wi-Fi connectivity.
PAL president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista dedicated the latest award to the Filipino people and to PAL’s loyal customers, as he accepted the award on behalf of the flag carrier during the APEX awards ceremony in Boston.
“We are truly humbled by this latest vote of confidence from our valued customers. This new 4-Star APEX award is another victory for the Philippine Airlines team of dedicated professionals, coming after the 4-Star global rating certified by Skytrax earlier this year,” said Bautista in a statement.
Overall ratings were certified by an external audit firm hired by APEX. The association processed verified itineraries that were validated by geo-location from over 50 million verified airline generated itineraries. More than 500,000 flights by passengers from around the world were rated throughout the year ending on July 31, 2018.
“We are extremely proud of the results of our passenger driven Official Airline Ratings program with TripIt,” said APEX chief executive officer Dr. Joe Leader.
“Of nearly 500 airlines rated worldwide, less than 9 percent were rated by their passengers at the highest Five Star Airline level and only the next 14 percent reached the prestigious Four-Star Airline tier,” he added.
The award will spur the legacy carrier to step up its service enhancement program as PAL introduces new aircraft, routes and product innovations.
PAL has begun deploying the sophisticated Airbus A350-900 and Airbus A321neo aircraft on key international routes.
The A350 now operates the nonstop Manila-London route and will inaugurate Manila-New York nonstop flights by Oct. 29, 2018, marking another milestone (the longest commercial flight ever operated by a Philippine carrier).
The A321neo now serves Brisbane, Sydney and Port Moresby, and will also fly the much-awaited Manila-Sapporo (Japan) route that opens on Oct. 8.
“This new accolade comes with a fresh challenge: We should never rest on our laurels but must always remain focused on our primary role to provide a pleasant and comfortable travel experience for all our passengers, in the air and on the ground. Thus, this latest award as 4-Star major regional airline will inspire us to keep getting better and achieve more until we attain the coveted 5-star status as a prime player in global aviation,” said Bautista.
PAL vice president for marketing Ria Domingo said “Our strengths lie in our legacy of service to the Philippines and to the world through our expansive flight route network covering 42 international and 33 domestic destinations, utilizing one of the world’s youngest fleet of aircraft, and our trademark heartfelt Filipino service. Customers are responding positively to our new cabins, our new seats and inflight entertainment systems, our dine on demand business class meals and other product enhancements.”
Meanwhile, airport authorities have formed a team to get rid of all birds at the grassy portion of the major runway of Ninoy Aquino International Airport that pose dangers to aircrafts.
The move, according to the Manila International Airport Authority, came on the heels of complaints from airline operators and pilots about the presence of birds, especially egrets and pigeons, looking for food on NAIA runway 06/24.
Just recently, a Jetstar Airways plane with 158 passengers on board bound for Singapore returned to the airport after encountering birdstrike minutes after taking off at the NAIA runway. Later, the airline management decided to cancel the flight for security reason.
MIAA assistant division chief for operations Alvin Candelaria said these birds can pose danger because of the possibility of bird strike, when any one of them or part of the flock collides with aircraft’s engine flying in and out of the airport.
“We installed new devices at the grassy portion of the runway 06/24 which we called acoustic devices and safety pistol that blew flare to the air to distract birds within the vicinity of the runway. We do it when no operations landing or take off of aircraft,” he said.
Candelaria said migratory birds are easy to rid-off, but the pigeons are the most hard to handle. “We are having a hard time to get them out of the runway, kasi magulo sila.”
“There is an existing law preventing residents living near the airport not to raised pigeons about eight kilometer radius but apparently it is being ignored by community leaders in the area,” he added.
In the previous years, officers and members of the Airline Operators Council operating at the NAIA had called the attention of MIAA to do something about the birds.
Candelaria said personnel from the Airport Ground Operations Safety Division said that the birds come mostly from the surrounding lagoons and ponds near the airport which used to be their sanctuary, but now being develop into a real estate.
The huge vacant lot from west of the NAIA just outside the runway, used to be part of the salt beds and ponds of Paranaque City but had been converted into warehouses of large department stores, the El Shaddai convention center and groups of condominium buildings and a full swing of reclamation so birds have to fly from one place to another just to look for their food.
In the past administration, they found out that the airport’s avian avoidance equipment, or avian noise driving device which they installed had been out of service.
“The noise makers malfunctioned and the birds are no longer responding and it appears that they develop a kind of adaptation to the various sounds, they are no longer afraid (birds),” said Candelaria.
“We are studying areas which are critical and non-critical so that when we dispersed them they cannot just transferred to one area to another side of the airport runway,” he added.
The AOC is worried that bird strike incidents at the airport might increase, noting that in 2010, there were 23 instances of bird strikes at the premier airport, up from nine in 2009.
All over the country, the record jumped from 42 bird strikes in 2009 to 120 in 2010.
In 2008, the NAIA recorded bird hits involving three international air carriers. The first of these accidents was in May 12, 2008 when a Cathay Pacific airlines plane, arriving from Hong Kong, collided with a bird while landing.
Bird strike occurs when birds, bats and all flying animals collide with an aircraft, hitting the nose, windshield, leading edges such as wings and tails, or ingested by the engines.
So far, there had been no fatalities involved in local bird strikes, except for costly maintenance and repairs and cancelled flights, according to Philippine Airlines.
All the other local airplanes have encountered bird strikes over the years, but the damages were minimal because local birds are smaller and lighter.