With Japan’s entertainment industry down, PAL flies low

Benigno D. Tutor, Jr.

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Even with his years of experience at the helm of PAL’s domestic and international offices, newly designated country manager for Japan Danilo “Danny” Lim admits that the horizon doesn’t look so bright for the country’s sunny flag carrier.

When Danilo “Danny” Lim assumed post as country manager of the Philippine Airlines for Japan in May 2006, the horizon wasn’t looking bright for the country’s flag carrier with a sunny logo.

At the beginning of the year, the last trickle of the Filipino entertainers who–in the heyday of the bubble economy reached 100,000 annually and provided a steady stream of air traffic–headed home for the final time.

With the stringent requirement for the so-called ‘talento’ to have a diploma in a two-year entertainment course in an institution recognized by the Japanese government, only about 5,000 entertainer visas have been approved this year, according to the Department of Labor.

To make matters worse, natural and man-made calamities have dampened Japanese travel to the Philippines, which declined to about 300,000 by Lim’s estimates.

In the midst of this market turbulence, PAL has made the bold move of beefing up its regional flights to bring its service closer to the dispersed Filipino populace in Japan. Aside from the New Tokyo International Airport in Narita, it has existing operations in Okinawa, Fukuoka, Osaka and Nagoya. It has increased its Nagoya flight frequencies from 4 to 6 times weekly, the 5th to take effect on December 21, 2006 and the 6th in March, 2007.

In an interview with the Philippines Today, Lim is forthright in his projections for this year, “This coming fiscal year 2007/2008 is very challenging for PAL due to  the fact that the volume of our traditional traffic, the Filipino entertainers, is down to its lowest level which started January 2006. Therefore,  we will rely more on the Japanese tourists market.  However, given the status of development of tourism infrastructure in the country, we still foresee a limited number of tourist destinations in the Philippines that could be promoted to the Japanese market.”

Despite the overcast skies, PAL is still determined to take advantage of its competitive edge over the other airlines in its core routes. According to Lim, PAL still holds the record on safety among the Asian airlines.  To be competitive in terms of equipment, PAL has implemented a re-fleeting program which will involve procuring 12-18 new Air Bus 319’s.  The delivery of the first two of these were done in October this year and the rest will be completed in 2008.  Likewise, PAL has placed order for 6 Boeing 777 which will be in its fleet beginning 2009. 

 Lim admits that this is not the best time for airlines all over the world. How does PAL continue to live up to its sunny logo? Lim replies, “PAL is not only a business entity.  The Philippines takes pride of having its national flag up there in the sky everytime a PAL aircraft is airborne.  PAL serves as the bridge or the means to reunite our countrymen as much as connecting our people to the peoples of the world..”