Philippine Airlines (PAL) said Friday it is working on plans to mount nonstop flights to and from Tel Aviv - the gateway to Israel - by October this year.
In a statement, the flag carrier said it hopes to serve growing demand for air linkages between the Philippines and the Holy Land to serve tourists and overseas Filipino workers.
PAL said its president and COO Gilbert Santa Maria 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 travelers by as early as July 2021, following the country's success in controlling the pandemic, the airline 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,” said PAL chief Strategy and Planning Officer Dexter Lee.
For his part, 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!"
Sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims, Israel is an economically vibrant country with a fusion of historic and natural attractions.
PAL said it is eyeing twice weekly nonstop flights to Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport, using its 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 flag carrier said its planned 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," it said. — Ted Cordero/RSJ, GMA News