Philippine Airlines fires back at United complaint on new Seattle flights

Feb 22, 2020

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Philippine Airlines will not go down without a fight over its proposed service to Seattle, firing back at United Airlines’ request that the service be delayed until the U.S. carrier lands additional slots in Manila.

The Manila-based carrier argues that United’s slot request is “inappropriate” in what Philippine Airlines claims is a standard route authority proceeding, in a response to the U.S. Department of Transportation on Feb. 18.

“The failure to timely grant [Philippine Airlines’] application would be tantamount to a violation of the bilateral air transport agreement,” Philippine Airlines said referring to the treaty that governs flights between the Philippines and the U.S.

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At the center of the dispute is Philippine Airlines’ proposed three-times weekly service between Manila (MNL) and Seattle (SEA) on an Airbus A350. The flights, which are allowed under the two countries’ air services agreement, would be the only nonstop between the two cities.

United sees it differently. In a filing earlier in February, the carrier argued that its repeated efforts to add a second daily flight between its Guam (GUM) hub and Manila have been rejected by local authorities in the Philippines, even as Philippine Airlines has expanded to the U.S.

The Philippine carrier grew its capacity to the U.S. by nearly 29% year-over-year in 2019, according to Cirium schedule data.

“It is in the public interest to grant [Philippine Airlines’] application for additional authority to expand service only when United is able to expand service as well,” United said.

Related: United seeks to block Philippine Airlines’ new Seattle flight

In response, Philippine Airlines pointed out that slots at the Manila airport are handled by a third-party firm based in Australia, and not by the Philippine government. In addition, there is a separate treaty that moderates for international slot disputes.

There is no timeline for when the DOT will rule on Philippine Airlines’ proposed Seattle route. However, Seattle airport officials have indicated that it is unlikely to launch in May as initially planned independent of the dispute.

Philippine Airlines has also not commented on how the coronavirus outbreak has impacted its international expansion plans. The carrier has suspended all flights to mainland China and Hong Kong (HKG) through March 28 as a result of the outbreak.

Related: Philippine Airlines to add new flights to Seattle, Los Angeles

Featured image by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.

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