When it comes to in-flight entertainment, more and more passengers prefer to ditch the seatback system and bring their own devices.
According to a new study by market-research firm Osurv, a majority of airline passengers are OK with no seatback entertainment on flights. About 71 percent of respondents said that they would be fine without in-flight entertainment, noting a preference for the larger, higher quality screens of personal devices like iPads. And some passengers cited a general dislike of the in-flight systems (with 9 percent pointing out their potentially germy surfaces).
The results may be unexpected. In a time when airlines cut amenities and services while raising prices, in-flight entertainment seemed to be the simplest way to keep passengers occupied. Some airlines have even upgraded their in-flight entertainment options: Earlier this summer, Delta rolled out free streaming video for all flyers (see right), while all new Airbus A330 planes are built with fourth-generation in-flight entertainment systems (which, a press release notes, include 3-D film capability).
But these systems don’t come cheap. According to TheNew Yorker‘s David Owen, each seat-back screen alone costs $10,000 apiece, plus another couple of thousand dollars for the hand-held remote. Outfitting a new aircraft or updating an older model could cost millions of dollars—costs that are conceivably are passed onto the passenger.
With an abundance of personal-device options, from mp3 players to tablets to advanced flight-friendly e-readers, flyers may not need the dazzling new in-flight systems anyhow. So perhaps carry-on entertainment is a boon for the consumer. If they don’t want to use the drop-down or seatback screen anyhow, eliminating these from new aircraft could significantly ease production and maintenance costs.
A full 94 percent of the survey’s respondents considered the trend a cost-cutting measure by airlines, and 27 percent thought the savings should be passed onto them by way of cheaper seats. But we imagine that, as ever, cut costs are not passed along to the flyer. Rather, they will go to the airlines themselves.
When pressed as to why ticket prices spiral out of control, airlines like to point out the amazing array of services they offer. But if those services are unwanted, airlines would be silly to keep building them into planes and charging passengers for the pleasure.
What do you think, readers? Are you OK with using your own devices on a plane, or do you enjoy the in-flight entertainment?
MANILA, Philippines–Malaysia’s AirAsia Berhad, one of the largest budget carriers in the region, extended an $18-million loan (P788 million) to its Philippine unit, which it said would post a profit by the second half of 2014, according to a top official and regulatory filings.
AiraAsia Bhd. told the Malaysian stock exchange that the loan—which it described as a form of financial assistance—would allow Philippine unit AirAsia Inc. to facilitate its “ordinary course of business.”
“This is to support our operations,” Alfredo Yao, the founder and majority stockholder of AirAsia Zest, told the Inquirer in an interview Wednesday. “We hope to be black in the back by the last quarter of 2014.”
AirAsia Inc., which is 40 percent owned by AirAsia Bhd., owns 49 percent of Air Asia Zest. Yao earlier expressed his willingness to sell his stake following the approval of the Senate. Yao cited the increase in demand for travel in the low-cost segment as well as the rationalizing competition in the domestic aviation sector.
“It’s good for the industry as a whole. We don’t have to make a killing [in profits] but we can still make a little and not lose money,” Yao said, describing how the pricing strategy in the Philippines is shifting.
AirAsia’s Philippine operations have been struggling, partly due to competition with flag carrier Philippine Airlines and budget airline Cebu Pacific Air in the domestic market. AirAsia Bhd. owner Tony Fernandes said in statement to the Malaysian stock exchange that the unit’s return to profit would come sooner than expected.
“I have spent considerable time on a turnaround plan for Indonesia and Philippines operations which will be rolling out from the third quarter of 2014 onward, and I believe both will return to the black in the second half of the year,” Fernandes said.
“We are investing a lot on marketing our brand locally and internationally to ensure we push passenger demand into the Philippines,” he said. “We have revised our network and I believe this will push fares even higher in the second half of 2014. I am very optimistic the worse is over as our turnaround plan has been put into place.”
Fernandes earlier said in an interview that he expected AirAsia Inc. to become profitable by next year. AirAsia’s Philippine unit recorded a net loss of 24 million ringgit (P332 million) in the quarter ending June 30, AirAsia Bhd. noted in its filing.
It said the group would only start recognizing profits, however, once a total of 80.6 million ringgit (P1.1 billion) of “unrecognized losses” have been reversed.
AirAsia Bhd. noted in its financial filing that its Philippine operation’s forward loads for the remaining months of the third quarter are slightly higher than the same period in 2013.
AirAsia Zest and AirAsia Philippines, which roughly control a tenth of the local market, currently operate a combined fleet of 18 aircraft servicing domestic destinations of Kalibo (Boracay), Puerto Princesa (Palawan), Tagbilaran (Bohol), Cebu and Tacloban with international destinations in Asia, China and Korea.
AirAsia’s Philippine units also plan to mount flights to Japan within the year.
AirAsia Inc. operates from Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Kalibo International Airport and Mactan Cebu International Airport. Source: Miguel R. Camus, Philippine Daily Inquirer
GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has sought a P2.2-billion budget for the rehabilitation and expansion of the Makar Wharf, and construction of a new airport terminal building here.
This was announced by Raymond Salangsang, vice president of the General Santos City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a press conference days ahead of the 23rd Annual Mindanao Business Conference.
The conference opens on Monday, September 1.
The Makar Wharf rehabilitation and expansion will cost P1.3 billion, Salangsang said, while DOTC also submitted a P900-million budget for the proposed new airport terminal building in General Santos.
The move is seen as immediate response of the Philippine government to the planned integration of the Philippines into the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.
Salangsang said General Santos is an excellent transshipment point of exports from China to the rest of the ASEAN region.
New airport terminal
In the same forum, Salangsang said construction of the new airport terminal building could begin late next year or early 2016.
He said the new terminal building, which would have at least 4 air bridges, could open in 2019.
The General Santos City airport began commercial operations in 1996.
When it opened, the airport was the biggest airport facility in Mindanao, sitting on a 600-hectare property.
It was built largely on grants from the United States through the United States Agency for International Development.
Since then, however, its terminal building has undergone little changes with some portions already needing major repairs.
Mayor Rivera said the city would have to improve its infrastructure if it were to become Mindanao’s agro-industrial center.
During the height of international fresh tuna trading, Philippine Airlines was flying out 10 tons of chilled tuna from the city.
When it opened, there was only one daily flight servicing General Santos-Manila route.
Today, as many as 8 daily flights are mounted to Manila, Cebu and Iloilo.
In addition to PAL, Cebu Pacific is now servicing General Santos.
A third airline, Air Asia, will also soon begin flying the Manila-General Santos route.
MANILA – Philippine Airlines (PAL) may stop selling tickets to Dubai after the regulator rejected its code sharing agreement with Emirates Airlines.
Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) legal division head Wyrlou Samodio today told reporters that its board last week denied the extension of the code sharing agreement between PAL and Emirates.
The decision stems from the Philippine flag carrier’s failure to use its entitlements to Dubai.
Under a codeshare agreement, the two airlines are sharing the same flight and a seat can be purchased on each airline’s designator and flight number, which is operated by only one of cooperating parties.
Samodio said CAB is willing to reallocate the Dubai flight entitlements assigned to PAL if another Philippine carrier wants to apply for those entitlements.
PAL maintains 21 weekly flights for this route under a codeshare arrangement after it stopped its direct flights to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 1998. PAL Express flies six times a week.
Sought for comment, Jorenz Tanada, spokesperson of Cebu Pacific, said the airline requested CAB to disallow the extension of a codeshare agreement between PAL and Emirates.
“Said agreement involves frequencies between Manila and Dubai that are meant for operation by Philippine carriers and yet are currently operated by Emirates,” Tanada said.
The budget airline last year began long-haul flights between Manila and Dubai. Cebu Pacific uses its Airbus A300-330 aircraft for its first 9-hour direct flight.
At present, there are 700,000 Filipinos in the UAE, the fourth largest concentration of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
MANILA – The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has approved the request of Philippine Airlines (PAL) to add flights to Canada.
Wyrlou Samodio, CAB legal division head, said its board last week approved the application of PAL for an additional 7 weekly flights to Canada.
At present, PAL flies to and from Canada 7 times a week.
The flag carrier requested the additional seat entitlements due to the rising number of Filipino-Canadians who visit the Philippines and of Filipinos moving to Canada.
Samodio said the CAB board also approved the request of Cebu Pacific to be designated as official Philippine carrier to Canada.
“We have as yet no frequency allocations to Canada, even as we got designated as an official carrier,” Jorenz Tanada, spokesperson of Cebu Pacific, said in a text message.
Tanada had said the Filipino community in Canada has grown significantly in the last 10 years.
“We look forward to offering CEB’s low cost services to Filipinos in Canada and their families back home,” he said.
The budget airline last yearbegan long-haul flights between Manila and Dubai. Cebu Pacific uses its Airbus A300-330 aircraft for its first 9-hour direct flight.
Last May, the Philippines and Canada agreed to amend their air service agreement (ASA), which was last revised in December 2008.
The new agreement increased the frequency entitlement for each side from 7 flights a week to14.
According Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, his county issued more than 47,000 visitor visas to Filipinos in 2013.
Nearly 30,000 Filipinos became permanent residents of Canada, making the Philippines the third top source-country for immigrants.
In addition, more than 650,000 Canadian residents can trace their ancestry to the Philippines. Data from the Department of Tourism show that visitors from Canada grew by 12.5 percent to 28,506 arrivals in the first two months of the year.
CLARK NEGLECTED: The prospect of Clark International Airport in Pampanga becoming the twin world gateway of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is dimming as President Noynoy Aquino, who ironically comes from Central Luzon, nears the end of his term in 2016.
Officials and businessmen in the region have noticed the President’s lack of enthusiasm for upgrading Clark, which has ample space for expansion and world-class parallel runways built by the US Air Force, to complement congested NAIA an hour away by a dedicated rail or bus line.
Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya told Reuters this week that President Aquino has ordered another runway built at NAIA to ease air traffic congestion there. The project, which includes a fourth terminal, will cost at least P2.4 billion.
“The President’s guidance was very clear,” Abaya said. “We’ll find ways to have this completed before his term ends because the benefits are clear.”
* * *
LIKE A RESTO: With just one year before his administration is engulfed by the frenzy of the 2016 election campaign, the President is obviously in a hurry to save NAIA from being one of the world’s worst airports.
Abaya probably sees another runway as a quick fix. He did not say, however, where the runway will be built in the NAIA fringes choked with residential subdivisions.
He said the new runway would increase from 42 to 48 the number of planes taking off and landing per hour. If an additional terminal is built, he added, the take-off and landing rate could rise to at least 58 planes an hour.
Apparently he did not notice that the NAIA situation is much like that of an over-crowded restaurant. Squeezing in another long table without opening more dining space and improving the menu, the kitchen and parking area will not make customer satisfaction any better.
* * *
SPACE PROBLEM: The basic problem of NAIA is lack of space.
With only 700 hectares for terminals, aviation and other related facilities, the airport is hemmed in by the South Luzon Expressway and the Parañaque perimeter road on the northeast and the Multinational Village of El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde on the southwest.
In comparison, Clark airport has 2,400 hectares for a world-class passenger terminal, parking aprons, taxiways, cargo handling, aircraft repair and commercial spaces. NAIA and all its facilities can fit in a tiny corner of Clark’s 26,000 hectares.
The only missing link in making Clark the ideal partner of NAIA is a dedicated rail or bus line connecting them. This can run in the middle of the capacious North Luzon Expressway without having to buy right of way.
* * *
TOP RUNWAY: Formerly home base of the US 13th Air Force, Clark has six maintenance hangars, 12 aircraft shelters, five air cargo terminals and two control towers. At the height of the Vietnam war, it took in stride the punishing traffic, including the giant B-52 bombers.
It has two runways, each 3.2 kilometers long, and another runway for small planes. Its wide reinforced concrete runways, made to strict USAF specifications, could take the US Space Shuttle in an emergency, and the C5 Galaxy, largest military cargo plane that can carry more than 150 percent of the workload of a B747.
Its runway configuration allows the airport to handle 30 operations per hour and is capable of up to 100 peak-hour operations with the use of the two independent runways. They have been classified as Category 1, based on ICAO standards.
UNDERUTILIZED: Waiting to be tapped fully by the administration, Clark is underutilized. Its weekly commercial flights number about 73, with daily flights averaging 11. In 2013, only a million passengers went through it.
The regular flights include: Qatar Airways via Doha; Asiana Airlines via Inchon; JinAir via Incheon; Cebu Pacific Air via Hong Kong, Singapore and Macao; DragonAir via Hong Kong; SEAIR-I via Caticlan; and Cebu Pacific via Cebu. Air Asia Berhad will relaunch Clark-Kuala Lumpur flights on Oct. 17.
Most OFW (overseas Filipino workers) from Central Luzon choose to fly through Clark instead of going all the way to the NAIA.
Source: Federico D. Pascual Jr (The Philippine Star)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino has ordered the construction of a third runway at Manila’s main international airport to ease air traffic congestion in one of Southeast Asia’s fastest growing economies.
The project is expected to cost at least 2.4 billion pesos ($55 million), and the amount may increase to include the construction of a fourth terminal at the airport, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said.
“The president’s guidance was very clear. We’ll find ways to have this completed before his term ends because the benefits are clear,” Abaya told Reuters. Aquino steps down after a single six-year term in June 2016.
The runway would be a quick-fix solution to the congestion plaguing Manila’s dilapidated airport, which is currently the main gateway for international travel. The government is also looking into building another international airport at a former U.S. naval base southwest of the capital to serve future growth in travel and tourism.
Another runway would increase the number of planes taking off and landing to 48 planes per hour from 42 planes currently. If an additional airport terminal is built, the take-off and landing rate could further rise to at least 58 planes an hour, Abaya said.
The Philippines is often overlooked by Australians in favour of other Asian destinations, but there’s no better time to get to know this tropical archipelago, writes Steve McKenna in this beginner’s guide.
With 7107 islands and a feast of screensaver-perfect backdrops – from dreamy tropical beaches and smouldering volcanoes to mesmerising rice terraces and crumbling Spanish relics – the Philippines is one of south-east Asia’s most exotic getaways.
Yet to many Australians, this lush archipelago – anchored between the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean – remains an under-appreciated mystery; usually ignored in favour of its near-neighbours Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia (Bali), despite the efforts of Filipino tourism chiefs, whose slogan: “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” graces the billboards in Australia.
So why take a punt on the Philippines? Aside from the fact that low-cost Filipino carrier Cebu Airlines will next month launch flights between the Philippines, taking on both national carrier Philippine Airlines and the homegrown Qantas and the fact that you’re dealing with bargain, Bali-esque prices, what is there that appeals here?
How about gorgeous landscapes, a spellbinding cast of wildlife (both on land and under water), exuberant festivals, romantic hideaways and thrilling adventures, sumptuous seafood and rum-fuelled parties and the chance to mingle with some of the cheeriest people on earth.
And you’ll have no worries communicating with them. Alongside Tagalog (Filipino), English is the Philippines’ official language (a legacy of the country’s strong American influence).
Compiling a maiden Filipino travel itinerary can be tricky (did I mention there were 7107 islands?).
So here are some ideas to get you started.
Most travellers fly into Metro Manila, which, with its Bangkok-style traffic jams and its glaring chasms between the ostentatiously rich and the heart-wrenchingly poor, provides an in-your-face introduction to the Philippines. However, the Filipino capital is an absorbing and enthralling place to explore.
To familiarise yourself, join a walking tour with Carlos Celdran (celdrantours.blogspot.com), an acclaimed guide who uses street theatre to trace Manila’s topsy-turvy history. His signature tour covers Intramuros – the photogenic, and fairly placid, old walled quarter founded by the Spanish colonialists in the early 16th century.
It was partially rebuilt after being flattened during World War II when the US and Japan fought for control of the city, then known as the pearl of the Orient. Another Celdran tour (Livin’ La Vida Imelda) explores the controversial life of Imelda Marcos, the shoe-loving wife of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. She was was said to have owned 3000 pairs of shoes when first lady.
You can shop for nifty footwear, and other goodies, in the sleek airconditioned malls beloved by Manilenos across the social spectrum (the fanciest are in Makati, a modern American-tinged enclave strewn with cosmopolitan hotels and restaurants). Don’t miss the sunset over Manila Bay; it’s the city’s traffic pollution that contributes to the startling orangey-red spectacle.
After dark, kick back with drinks on a trendy rooftop bar such as Skye (skye.ph) or try your luck at Manila’s new $1.3 billion Solaire casino (solaireresort.com). You could also partake in the national obsession: singing. Karaoke bars are everywhere; some are family-friendly, others not so, dripping in neon and sleaze, rife with sex tourists and ladies, and lady-boys, of the night.
THE BIG ISLAND
Manila sprawls at the centre of the Philippines’ largest island.
A touch smaller than Cuba, Luzon could easily eat up the 30-day visa-free allowance that Australian passport holders are given upon entering the country.
After the smog, heat and bustle of Manila, it’s bliss to ascend into the cooler Cordillera, a pine-forested chain of mountains sheltering laid-back towns like Sagada, a faintly mystical, hippy hideaway, and Baguio, a hill station established by the American military, who forced Spain out of the Philippines in 1898.
The Cordillera hides waterfalls, sacred caves with entombed mummies and museums that depict the customs of ancient headhunters.
But the main pull is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed rice terraces skirting the small towns of Banaue and Batad.
Dating back to the days before Christ, these magnificent amphitheatres — hewn with hand, mud and stone by the Ifugao people (one of several tribes still living in the region) — are edged by invigorating hiking trails. Travellers can do bamboo and nipa hut home-stays in Batad, where the worst of the noise pollution comes from crowing roosters and playful children.
Further north, the Philippines’ best-preserved Spanish town, Vigan, has cobblestone streets, Mediterranean mansions, sturdy Catholic churches that were built to withstand earthquakes; one form of disastrous natural phenomena that the Philippines is vulnerable to and vibrant festivals like January’s Vigan Town Fiesta – it’s a blaze of colour, music and processions.
You can tour Vigan in a calesa, a two-wheeled horse carriage that is just one of the country’s eye-catching (and often hair-raising) modes of transport. Most prevalent is the jeepney. A Philippines classic, the ex-US Army jeeps-cum-minibuses daubed in technicolour graffiti spawning messages of love, politics and religion. Similar designs cover tricycles, the Filipino rickshaws that are basically motorbikes with bolted-on sidecars.
In South Luzon, you can swim with giant butanding (whale sharks) off the coast of Donsol, and climb smoking Mount Mayon (a perfect cone volcano blooming from rice fields). Volcanoes loom either side of Manila. Day-trippers scale Mount Pinatubo, which last erupted in 1991, and Taal, which emerges, rather magically, out of a lake.
Choosing the Philippines’ most beautiful beach is nigh-on impossible; there are so many. The most hyped is Boracay Island’s White Beach, a luscious, four-kilometre lick of powdery sand, edged by giant, lurching coconut palms and stroked by gentle azure waters crawling with paraws (traditional sailing boats).
Though Boracay is paradise to many Filipinos (and South Koreans, Taiwanese and Chinese, who comprise the bulk of the international tourists), some complain that it’s become too developed.
Compared to Thailand’s Patong and Bali’s Kuta, however, Boracay is still pretty laidback. And as I enjoy a seafood platter — grilled squid, octopus, shrimps and snapper – with a chilled San Miguel beer, while watching the sun melt into the sea, sending the sky into a frenzy of pinks and oranges, White Beach doesn’t seem such a bad place to linger.
The bill, by the way? 600 pesos ($14.80).
Less frenetic than Manila, Cebu is the Philippines’ second major gateway. Its international airport is on Mactan Island, where Iberian explorer Ferdinand Magellan met his end at the hands of tribal leader Lapu-Lapu in 1521.
A 20-minute taxi ride away, Cebu City boasts the country’s oldest street and church, a ruined Spanish fort, and renowned eateries, like Zubuchon, where globetrotting celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain feasted on lechon (spit-roasted suckling pig). His verdict? “Best pig ever!”
While not as famous as Thai or Vietnamese food, Filipino cuisine is pretty varied and flavoursome.
Touted as the national dish, adobo is a vinegary, garlicky stew that comes in beef, pork and chicken variations, with rice.
It’s served everywhere, from upscale bistros to boisterous street markets where families and friends munch and socialise around plastic tables and chairs.
Balut (half-developed duck embryo) is among the more offbeat culinary options. A favourite Filipino dessert is halo-halo, a revitalising concoction of milky crushed ice, fresh fruit (like mango, banana and papaya) and ice-cream.
The hub of the Visayan archipelago, Cebu is the launchpad for ferries and catamarans to myriad tempting islands, best explored on a motorbike or bicycle. Gems include Siquijor which is famed for its witches and shamans and the bucolic Bohol, which is on the road to recovery after suffering back-to-back jolts in late 2013.
A devastating 7.2 earthquake was followed three weeks later by Typhoon Haiyan (or Yolanda, as it was known in the Philippines).
Although some of Bohol’s centuries-old churches were reduced to rubble, its iconic, tubby Chocolate Hills are still largely intact.
These 100-metre high mounds turn brown in the dry season between April and May (but are a luxuriant green during my February visit).
Another Bohol highlight is the tarsier. You can glimpse these cute, wide-eyed creatures — some of the planet’s tiniest primates — in the trees of Bohol’s Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary.
BEST OF THE REST
Like Borneo, Palawan conjures up a sense of the far-flung and unexplored. Its languid provincial capital, Puerto Princesa, is just an hour’s flight from Manila, but oozes Eden-esque qualities.
One of the few pockets of civilisation, El Nido is a traveller-friendly town surrounded by hulking limestone cliffs, pristine beaches and sparkling emerald lagoons. Hop in a bangka (an outrigger vessel) or kayak and imbibe scenery that resembles Phi Phi in Thailand, only with a fraction of the tourists. North of Palawan, the Calamian Islands are believed to have inspired Alex Garland to write The Beach.
Calamian includes the hallowed wreck-dive spot of Coron, where more than a dozen Japanese ships were sunk during World War II. Coral-rich reefs teeming with tropical fish, turtles, sharks and dugongs, pepper Filipino waters, with world-class dive sites off Panglao Island, south of Bohol, Apo Island, off Negros, and Puerto Galera, Mindoro.
In the Philippines’ deep south, hardcore surfers tackle the “Cloud Nine” break off Siargao Island, while adventure-seekers are drawn to Camiguin, a pear-shaped island with seven volcanoes. Both are near Mindanao (the country’s second largest island), which is seducing more tourists after decades of political unrest.
Mindanao’s Catholic-majority north is already deemed safe to visit, and, with peace talks ongoing, it’s hoped the deserted beaches and misty mountains of the Muslim-majority centre and west will gradually become a hot-bed for wanderlustful travellers. Watch this space.
The writer travelled as a guest of Philippine Airlines, the Philippines’ Department of Tourism and associated partners.
ABOUT THE WRITER
A regular contributor to Traveller, Steve McKennahas visited, and written about, more than 80 countries, and reserves a special affection for Europe, Latin America and south east Asia. But it’s the diversity of travel that most excites him.
Philippine Airlines flies from Sydney to Manila four times weekly, with return fares from $789. From Melbourne there are three flights a week (fares from $870). Connect on PA’s budget airline PAL Express to the Filipino islands. See philippineairlines.com. Cebu Pacific is offering tickets for under $500. See cebupacificair.com/au-en. Qantas also flies regularly between Sydney and Manila, with fares from $977 return. See qantas.com.au. Ocean Jet ferry services link the Visayan islands and Mindanao. See oceanjet.net.