PH Airlines in historic Arctic flight

One of Philippine Airlines Boing 777-300ER. Image ©

PHILIPPINE Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, made history on Saturday when for the first time a Filipino airline flew over the Arctic region and made a 16.16 hour journey from Toronto, Canada to Manila.

The PAL’s flight PR119 took off from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport at 12:53 am. (local Canadian time) on Sunday and arrived at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 6:10 am. on Sunday (Manila time) following its historic journey across the Arctic Region.

Using the state-of-the-art 370-seater Boeing 777-300ER, with registry number RP-C7779, the plane flew 7,200 nautical miles or 13,300 kilometers from Canada via Greenland, the Arctic Circle, Russia, Mongolia and parts of China to the Philippines premier airport.

The airline said the plane flew at cruising altitudes ranging from 29,000 to 37,000 feet.

A PAL spokesperson, Cielo Villaluna, said the historic flight was led by PAL Vice President for Flight Operations Captain Florendo Jose “Chuck” Aquino 3rd together with Captain Raymond “XP” Casambre, First Officer Paul “Boom” Domingo and Second Officer Jonathanne “Jo” Hizon.

This was the first non-stop direct flight from Toronto to Manila over the polar region (North Pole). Kudos to the PAL team which made this flight a reality and most importantly, congratulations to our PAL flight deck crew under the leadership of Capt. Chuck. You made us proud,” PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista said in a statement.

I am truly honored to have been given the privilege to lead this milestone flight. More than that, I was glad to be part of a journey that brought much happiness to passengers on board as they were given a rare treat of the Northern Lights,” Captain Aquino said.

PAL will be operating these non-stop Manila-Toronto and Toronto-Manila flights on a regular four times weekly schedule, with departures from Manila every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; and departures from Toronto every Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Villaluna said PAL decided to shift to direct non-stop service via the polar route to cut down the total traveling time between Toronto and Manila. The carrier used to operate flights between the two points with a stopover in Vancouver, a longer routing that resulted in a combined flying and ground time of 21 hours.

This new route, she said, cuts travel time by 4.5 hours, a saving that translates to greater convenience for passengers.

At present, the long-range B777 is the fleet for the polar route. The ultra-long-range Airbus A350s, which will be delivered starting 2018, will also serve the said route, Villaluna said.

Villaluna added that passengers of this first polar route experienced PAL’s signature “Heart of the Filipino” service, in flight entertainment, WIFI connectivity and the comfortable seats and spacious cabins of the Boeing 777. The all Filipino cabin crew of PR119 comprised of 14 attendants and stewards headed by veteran Purser Gladys Santos.

The airline is also planning to follow up with another polar crossing service on an even longer non-stop route (over 17 hours) from Manila to New York (JFK Airport) and from New York to Manila, using the A350 aircraft, within the second half of 2018.

Benjie Vergara
A veteran reporter covering the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. He is currently writing for Manila Times, the Philippines' oldest newspaper.

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