Philippine Airlines Suddenly Finds Itself in Real Trouble

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It’s a resolvable problem, but will take time, and the impact on the national carrier of the Philippines has been both immediate and serious.

If you thought the catering woes of Malaysia Airlines were bad, a regional neighbour has found themselves in far more serious trouble.

This week, a significant crisis has hit the Philippines’ national airline, Philippine Airlines, with the expiration of its US Customs Visa Waiver Agreement, leaving the carrier unable to transport passengers to the United States who rely on this program for entry.

While the full extent of this issue remains uncertain, its impact on the airline’s operations is undeniable. Currently, Philippine Airlines cannot carry passengers to the United States who do not have a visa, American citizenship, or legal residency.

For already-booked travellers bound for the United States on Philippine Airlines, the consequences are manageable. The airline is taking steps to rebook affected passengers on other carriers who hold valid visa waiver agreements, often accompanied by generous compensation packages. For instance, a passenger travelling from Singapore to Honolulu via Manila was promptly rebooked on a United Airlines flight and received a substantial US$1,000 compensation package.

If you are planning to fly Philippine Airlines to the United States without a US visa or citizenship, it’s advisable to double-check your flight status. Arriving at the airport a few hours early can help avoid potential delays at the passenger services counter.

Regarding the airline’s response to this crisis, Philippine Airlines, despite the considerable portion of its revenue that’s reliant on US routes, has not been notably vocal about its specific actions to address the issue. The airline has also not responded to requests for comments nor have they released a public statement. However, their website does contain a brief statement acknowledging the situation and confirming the renewal process of the required carrier agreement with the US Customs and Border Protection.

While passengers who booked flights before the expiration of the agreement have been adequately accommodated and compensated, those booking afterward may not be as fortunate.

For Philippine Airlines, between having to pay to rebook passengers on other airlines and also simply not getting the business from new passengers travelling to the US, the situation has quickly inflicted immediate cashflow problems on the airline, along with the prospect of sustained, substantial revenue losses. It goes without saying that Philippine Airlines is doubtlessly striving to resolve the problem.

Philippine Airlines currently operates flights to five US destinations, including John F. Kennedy International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Guam’s Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport, and Honolulu. Many of these routes are served by the airline’s flagship Airbus A350 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Information from Philippine Airlines, Simple Flying, and LoyaltyLobby contributed to this article.


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