Philippine Airlines (PAL) on Friday said it is planning to mount nonstop flights to and from Tel Aviv, the gateway to Jerusalem and Israel, by October 2021.
The Lucio Tan-led carrier hopes to serve growing demand for air linkages between the Philippines and the Holy Land to serve tourists and OFWs alike.
Gilbert Santa Maria, PAL president and chief operating officer and Israel Ministry of Tourism Director General Amir Halevi have carried out exploratory talks on possible Manila-Tel Aviv-Manila flights.
Israel is gradually reopening its borders to international tourism, starting with vaccinated tour groups from May 23, and ultimately to individual tourist travelers by as early as July 2021, following the country’s success in controlling the pandemic.
“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,” Dexter Lee, PAL chief Strategy and Planning Officer said.
“We also look forward to inviting Israelis to visit the Philippines, so our direct flights will help us restart tourism here in our country,” he added.
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!”
PAL is eyeing twice weekly nonstop flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport, using state of the art Airbus A350 aircraft.
Philippine passport holders are entitled to a 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 to Tel Aviv from the 1940s to the 1950s.