Philippine Airlines Boosts Middle East Network

Israel will join the network of the Philippines' flag-carrier in April as part of efforts to grow tourism and business links between the two countries.

Credit: Airbus/Jean-Baptiste Accariez/Master FIlms

A new route to Israel is being launched by Philippine Airlines (PAL), more than 60 years after the carrier last operated regular flights to Tel Aviv.

The airline plans open nonstop service between Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International (MNL) and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion (TLV) from April 6. Schedules filed with OAG show the route will be served twice a week using Airbus A350 aircraft, offering almost 1,200 two-way weekly seats. 

PAL believes there is growing appetite for direct travel between the Philippines and Israel, fueled by spiritual pilgrimages, leisure demand and overseas Filipino workers. In addition, the flag-carrier hopes to attract tourists from the Middle East to the Philippines. 

Israel is also an attractive market as Philippine passport holders are entitled to 90-day visa-free access to the country. An estimated 28,000 Filipinos currently work in Israel, most of whom are based in the neighboring cities of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa.

According to data provided by Sabre Market Intelligence, O&D traffic between the two nations totaled 71,500 two-way passengers in 2019, with Manila-Tel Aviv the largest city pair. In the absence of direct flights, Hong Kong (HKG) was the biggest one-stop connecting market, followed by Istanbul (IST) and Bangkok (BKK). 

The planned launch comes less than a year after PAL president and COO Gilbert Santa Maria and Israel Ministry of Tourism director general Amir Halevi held exploratory talks on possible Manila-Tel Aviv-Manila flights. At the time of the talks in April 2021, Halevi said direct flights would be a “game-changer for tourism and business connectivity.”

PAL previously operated regularly to Tel Aviv during the 1940s to the 1950s. The carrier currently serves two destinations in the Middle East from Manilla, flying to Doha (DOH) and Dubai (DXB). The latest schedules show that service to Dammam (DMM) and Riyadh King Khalid (RUH) in Saudi Arabia are set to resume in March.