When we think of Philippine commercial aviation, only a few airlines do come into mind which are Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Philippines AirAsia, ZestAir, and AirPhil Express. Did you know though that a lot more airlines did exist in the past, many of which may be unfamiliar to you. Ever heard of Air Manila, Grand Air, Filipinas Orient Airways, PhilAir, and Spirit of Manila Airways? Did you know that some operated the Sud Aviation Caravelle?
We now look back at the past of Philippine commercial aviation where we take a look at some of the airlines that used to fly our skies.
Air Manila was founded in 1964 which operated domestic destinations in the Philippines utilizing a fleet of Hadley Page Dart Herald, Lockheed L-188 Electra, and Fokker F27 Friendship. They later on obtained five Boeing 707 jets to operate international flights and became Air Manila International (AMI). The moved was opposed by Philippine Airlines (PAL) which was owned by the government that time. Air Manila was merged into PAL in 1973.
FILIPINAS ORIENT AIRWAYS
Filipinas Orient Airways commenced flights in 1965 to domestic destinations around the Philippines using Dc-3. They later on went into utilizing the Sud-Aviation Caravelle jets, Nord 262 / Aerospatiale N262 turboprops which were eventually replaced by the NAMC YS-11. FOA also flew to international destinations despite opposition from then government-owned Philippines Airlines. Upon the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, FOA ceased operations. Philippine Airlines took over its aircraft and destinations.
In 1995, then Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos signed Executive Order (EO) 219 or the deregulation of the Philippine airline industry after Philippine Airlines monopolized the airline industry for decades as it was government owned that time. The deregulation allowed other airlines to open in the Philippines. One of the first was Grand Air of the Panlilo family. The Panlilos also owned the Philippine Village Hotel and Grand Boulevard Hotel. Grand Air patterned itself after Philippine Airlines, providing a full legacy service. They operated 5 Airbus A300B4s and 4 Boeing 737-200s. They operated both international and domestic flights including Hong Kong Kai Tak. The airline then closed in the late 90s after their debt to Taiwanese creditors grew.
SPIRIT OF MANILA AIRLINES
This must be the airline with the shortest existence, with only three months of flying operations. Spirit of Manila Airlines began flights in 2011 and ceased in 2012 with its main hub at the Clark International Airport. The airline only flew one route which was from Clark to Taipei, Taiwan and back utilizing three leased McDonnell MD-83 and Boeing 737-300 aircraft. Low passenger load and low demand forced the airline to cease operations. Spirit of Manila Airlines also thought of acquiring Boeing 747-400s and 767s to fly to Middle-East routes but this never arrived to fruitation.
There are actually other airlines that did exist in the past like Aero Filipinas, PhilAir, and Pearl Pacific Airways. You will still find PhilAir and Pearl Pacific Airway's Boeing 737-200 parked at Clark International Airport collecting dust and dirt.
So how about Air Philippines, AirPhil Express, and Zest Air? Air Philippines is actually still alive as Air Philippines Corporation operating under the name and style of PAL Express. AirPhilExpress became PAL Express. Zest Air on the other hand was bought by the AirAsia Philippines group and later became Philippines AirAsia.