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PAL vs United Airlines: What's Really Happening?

As we all know, there is a sort of feud between Philippine Airlines and United Airlines. The latter has been attempting to lobby the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to postpone the granting of the former's requested slots to Seattle in exchange of more slots in Manila. United is requesting for more Manila slots in order to increase its Guam - Manila capacity. The US airline was denied slots, not by PAL, but by the firm handling Manila's slots.


So to make things more simple, it is basically like this.

PAL wants to fly from Manila to Seattle. United wants to add more capacity for its Guam - Manila services.  United and PAL are also competitors on the Guam - Manila route. United was denied of more slots in Manila, thus, hampering its plan to add capacity. So in the name of "fairness", United is now pushing the US's DOT to postpone its granting of slots to PAL at Seattle until they (United) are granted slots in NAIA. 

In a November 2019 filing with the DOT, United said, “United believes that the slot and airport access challenges it has experienced at Manila must be rectified before the Department approves the APC application.”

The slots in Manila's airport or the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is managed and handled by an Australian firm named Airport Coordination Australia (ACA), and not the Philippine government authorized agencies like the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). 

As we all know, the NAIA is heavily congested and earning slots there would indeed be a challenge. Many local airlines experienced delayed flights caused by the lack of gates. 

In a report from Simple Flying, ACA has set the following rules with regards to Manila slots for summer 2020 and these include:
  • No more than 40 planned movements per hour, checked at 15-minute intervals
  • No more than 20 planned arrival movements per hour, checked at 15-minute intervals
  • No more than 2 arrivals in the same 5-minute window
As a response, PAL said, "The failure to timely grant this application would be tantamount to a violation of the bilateral air transport agreement.”

While United is arguing from the point of "fair practice", PAL's argument centers on bilateral air transport agreement with the United States. The Philippines and the United States do not have an open skies agreement, hence, the authorized governing body must approve any new route proposal.

So is this PAL's fault? Absolutely not. PAL in the first place is not authorized to lobby more slots for other carriers. While United Airlines simply wants that the granting of new routes and slots to be equal between both countries, PAL is arguing on the point of an air transport bilateral agreement. 

Given the very limited slots in NAIA, do you think United should consider using a widebody aircraft in order to increase capacity? Or maybe fly from Guam to Clark?

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