Philippine Air to fly
Oahu-Ilocos direct

The carrier plans to start
twice-weekly flights next month

By Russ Lynch

Philippine Airlines plans to launch direct service between Honolulu and Laoag International Airport, at the northern end of Luzon, on Oct. 1.

The airline said its "Ilocos Express" service will start at twice a week, Tuesdays and Sundays, using a 322-seat McDonnell Douglas MD-11 jet. A third service, on Thursdays, is scheduled to begin in late December.

Honolulu travel agencies specializing in the Philippines today were offering the cheapest economy-class seats on the new flights at fares ranging from about $700 to $890. The lowest fare posted in the airline's computer reservations system is $978 but travel agencies typically are offered the fares for less and add their own markup.

The service to the main airport serving the Ilocos region recognizes the strong connection Hawaii's Filipino population has with the area, the airline said.

"About 80 percent of the Filipinos in Hawaii are all from the north," Jun Bouffard, PAL's district manager in Honolulu, said today. PAL estimates that there are 168,000 Filipinos in Hawaii.

The direct service eliminates the need for Ilocos-bound travelers to go first to Manila, some 250 miles to the south, and possibly stay overnight before taking a connecting flight, PAL said. Bouffard said that the previous alternative to a connecting flight from Manila was a 10-hour bus ride.

The airline inaugurated a Honolulu-Laoag connection in 1994 with its Laoag Express, using Boeing 747 jumbo jets. However, the trip was via Manila, using a Boeing 737 for the Manila-Laoag leg.

The airline said that it expects the new service to cause a significant increase in travel between Hawaii and the Philippines. Twelve mayors from the northern Philippines will be among guests on the inaugural flight, PAL said.

PAL said customs, immigration and quarantine services are being provided at the Laoag airport. Those changes have given Ilocanos and other northern Luzon residents their first full-service international airport, PAL said.

PAL has three San Francisco-Honolulu-Manila flights a week, using 747s. It is the national flag carrier of the Philippines and is upgrading its fleet with $3.2 billion worth of new planes.

The company has ordered eight Boeing 747-400 aircraft and 28 Airbus planes. Some of the Airbus aircraft are long-range planes, which PAL said will allow it to inaugurate Manila-London service, one of the longest air routes in the world.

The airline already has four of the new 747s and one Airbus in service. It has arranged leases for four MD-11s to operate while it waits for the rest of the new aircraft and is using two of the MD-11s now.

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