Airphil Express flies Jolo and Bongao

Makes Zamboanga hub anew

September 10, 2010

Low Cost carrier Airphi Express, a subsidiary of flag carrier Philippine Airlines flew to Bongao Friday cementing Zamboanga as its regional hub it once enjoyed before pulling out in 1998. It will start operations to Jolo tomorrow.

The airline replaced Seair as current operator for the route which is plagued by re-fleeting problem after five of its Let-410 aircraft was declared unfit by the Civil Aviation Authority to fly for safety concerns.

But Maria Java, AirPhil Express vice president for marketing and media, stressed that flights were made possible by the recent upgrading of the airports in the two areas and not because of the current vacuum for air services in the islands whose majority passengers are US servicemen, government and banking employees.

Airphil Express is expected to utilize the 77-seater Bombardier Q400 in the Zamboanga-Jolo route with three times weekly schedule beginning September 11, and in the Zamboanga-Bongao route four times weekly from September 10, with connecting flights to Manila Cebu and Davao.

The airport runway upgrades were funded by the US government under the growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program and implemented by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) with the support of the provincial governments of Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.

The Tawi-Tawi runway boast a length of 1,920 meters from 1,608 meters with strips widened from 18 to 30 meters.

The Jolo airport runway on the other hand was extended 600 meters to 1,845 meters from 1,200 meters, and was also widened from 18 to 30 meters.

The improvements allow both airports to accommodate larger-bodied aircraft, such as Boeing 737s and Airbus 320s according to the data provided by the US government.

Roa had flown the evaluation flights in July to test and calibrate approach procedures.

“It felt like landing on runways in the US, built to the highest standards,” Captain Patrick Roa, Airphil Express’ chief pilot for safety and security, was quoted as saying.

Air Philippines is the 5th airline company to serve the area since PAL left in 1998.

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