Philippine Airlines goes non-stop to Toronto, considers Chicago and Houston

The flag carrier of the Philippines, Philippine Airlines has announced it will move its Toronto flights to nonstop. Currently, the flights from Manila to Toronto have a stop in Vancouver before continuing on to Toronto.

Beginning December 16th, Philippine Airlines will begin flying its Manila to Toronto route non-stop four times a week. The flight last operated non-stop in 2013. This flight will be the second longest flight flown by the 777-300ER, behind Saudia’s Jeddah-Los Angeles flight. Philippine Flight 119 from Toronto to Manila will be 8,221 miles and sixteen and a half hours in the air.

Philippine has limited transpacific services, with only five North American destinations being served, only three of which (excluding Toronto) are currently served nonstop. Toronto is home to the largest Filipino community in Canada, with about half of Canada’s Filipino population residing in Toronto.

Currently, Philippine Airlines has six Airbus A350-900s on order. CEO Jamie Bautista has said they plan to put one of these aircraft into service on a nonstop flight from Manila to New York-JFK, replacing the one-stop service via Vancouver. He also mentioned that the airline plans to add Seattle service in the last quarter of 2018.

A rendering of a Philippine Airlines Airbus A350-900. Photo Credits: Airbus

In a more detailed plan, Bautista revealed that the carrier plans to commence service from Manila to Chicago and Houston via Vancouver, two important Star Alliance hubs. The plan is to fly to Chicago four times a week and to fly to Houston three times a week. 

While both of these routes would connect Manila to an important Star Alliance hub, the economics of these routes would be complicated. In Houston, Taipei based EVA Airways has entered the market and has connected many people to southeast Asian destinations such as Manila, Hong Kong, and Singapore as well as eastern China. Korean Air recently announced that they would be canceling Houston service. EVA has been eating away at Korean’s traffic, as EVA has Star Alliance feed on both sides. Korean Air has connecting options in Seoul, but no feed in Houston. Houston would be an important connecting market for people originating in Southeast Asia who are looking to travel to Florida, the Caribbean, or South America. Star Alliance connections on United would allow travelers to connect through Houston to United’s expansive range of destinations throughout Florida, South America, and the Caribbean. Philippine may be able to make this route economically viable through connections, as the Filipino population of Houston is under 50,000. But, the direct, one-stop through Vancouver would potentially eliminate any advantages in passengers’ eyes, as they’ll be forced to make a stop regardless of what airline they choose.

While the demand for Chicago to Asia is significantly greater than Houston, the market appears to be nearly saturated. Chicago already has three flights to southeast Asia, with connecting options on both ends for the flights. EVA recently started service to Taipei with an early morning arrival in Taipei which makes for an optimal connection schedule. United has been flying non-stop to Hong Kong since 1998 with a tag on leg to Singapore (this is ending soon, however). United also does offer flights on Cathay Dragon and Cathay Pacific as connecting options on its website. Cathay Pacific also flies to Hong Kong, with feed from American Airlines in Chicago and its own connecting options in Hong Kong. Together, these three flights have done well. They have been responsible for connecting people from Chicago to destinations all across Southeast Asia.

An Airbus A340-300, which has been the backbone of Philippine Airlines’ fleet for many years. Photo Credits: Alec Mollenhauer (author)

Manila is not a high yielding destination for airlines, as it is geared much more towards people flying for leisure rather than people flying for business who are more likely to buy a premium cabin seat. With so many other connecting options to southeast Asian destinations, Philippine airlines would likely have to rely on mostly point to point traffic. The Chicago area has 130,000 Filipinos, just slightly fewer than Toronto. It seems as if a Chicago to Manila flight is viable with a decent sized Filipino population, but other airlines such as Cathay Pacific might be able to offer cheaper fares for people flying to Manila with a stop in Hong Kong which may be more appealing to leisure travelers, which make up most of the people traveling to the Philippines from North America.

Featured image by Alec Mollenhauer (author).

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