PAL to launch Manila-Tel Aviv flights

Aviation Updates Philippines – Echoing resiliency in the time of a pandemic, national flag carrier Philippine Airlines announced on Friday the proposed launching of direct flights to Tel Aviv, Israel from Manila, Philippines by October 2021.

An Airbus A350-900 aircraft of Philippine Airlines. Photo from Airbus.

In a press release, PAL said it is now "working on plans" to mount non-stop flights to Israel. The flag carrier sees potential in the market, as demand continues to grow for thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and tourists between the Philippines and the Holy Land.

Signifying that the plans are now in advanced stages, PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Gilbert Santa Maria and Israel Ministry of Tourism Director-General Amir Halevi have carried out exploratory talks on possible Manila-Tel Aviv-Manila flights.

Local media have reported that Israel is now on the brink of returning to normalcy after its widely successful vaccination campaign saw around 57 percent of the population inoculated against COVID-19. With that, Israel relaxed borders for international tourism, starting with vaccinated tour groups from May 23, and ultimately to individual tourist travelers by as early as July 2021.

PAL Chief Strategy and Planning Officer Dexter Lee said: "The Philippines is a strong source of potential travelers to Israel, which welcomes Filipinos without requiring a visa. Our countrymen have been longing for a direct flight to the Holy Land for spiritual pilgrimages or for a Mediterranean getaway when the travel climate allows. We also look forward to inviting Israelis to visit the Philippines, so our direct flights will help us restart tourism here in our country."

For his part, Israel Ministry of Tourism Director General Halevi said: "I am pleased to give this important first step to the tourism industry between Israel and the Philippines. Direct flights between our two capitals will be a game-changer for tourism and business connectivity. This time Israel has unique advantage as a safe and healthy country. We hope to welcome you soon in Israel!"

Flights between the Manila and Tel Aviv are expected to be flown on PAL's newest Airbus A350-900 aircraft. The flag carrier eyes to mount two weekly flights to Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Philippine passport holders are entitled to 90-day visa-free access to Israel. An estimated 28,000 Filipinos currently work in Israel, most of whom are based in the neighboring areas of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa.

Once the global travel climate improves and restrictions are eased, the planned PAL service will enable Israeli tourists to fly nonstop to Manila and connect to the flag carrier's domestic route network.

This will be a comeback for PAL, which operated regularly in Tel Aviv from the 1940s to the 1950s.