What’s Going On Between United And Philippine Airlines?

It’s been almost two weeks since we reported on the ongoing feud between United Airlines and Philippine Airlines. Since then, there have been words exchanged without any clear resolution to the issue. Here’s the latest on the situation.

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Philippines Airlines home base is Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, one of the key battlegrounds in this feud. Photo: Steven Agre via Wikimedia Commons.

The background

In United’s pursuit to increase service between Manila and Guam, it is trying to obtain an extra slot at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Thus far it has been denied this extra slot. In the name of fairness, it wants the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to postpone granting Seattle slots to Philippine Airlines (PAL) until United’s situation in Manila is sorted.

This is what the airline had to say in a November 2019 filing with the DOT:

United believes that the slot and airport access challenges it has experienced at Manila must be rectified before the Department approves the APC application.”

*APC stands for Air Philippines Corp.

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United wants to be able to offer more service between Manila and the American territory of Guam. Photo: United Airlines

Responding to United Airlines

Last week, Philippine Airlines responded with a statement of its own. According to Live And Lets Fly, the airline says that slots in Manila are handled by an Australian firm, and not by the government, as is the case with Seattle and the DOT. This is part of PAL’s statement:

“The failure to timely grant this application would be tantamount to a violation of the bilateral air transport agreement.”

As we explained previously, the US and the Philippines do not have an open skies agreement. Therefore, the applicable governing body must approve any new route on a case by case basis – including this Philippine Airlines proposal.

In response to PAL’s statement, this is what United had to say:

“It is in the public interest to grant the application for additional authority to expand service only when United is able to expand service as well.”

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United Airlines wants the US DOT to defer its decision on Philippine Airlines slots until it gets what it wants in Guam.Photo: United Airlines

Who is this ‘Australian firm’?

The Australian firm behind the management of slots at Manila’s largest international airport goes by the name Airport Coordination Australia. The goal, as stated on the corporation’s website, is to be the market leader at “delivering best practice independent slot coordination services”.

Interestingly, you can find the policies it has set for the airport here. In fact, for summer 2020 it includes rules such as:

  • No more than 40 planned movements per hour, checked at 15-minute intervals
  • No more than 20 planned arrival movements per hour, checked at 15-minute intervals
  • No more than 2 arrivals in the same 5-minute window

We asked Airport Coordination Australia if they had any opinions or statements on this matter, although no response was received at the time of publishing this article.

Conclusion

It’s clear that United is arguing that the granting of rights and slots between two countries and their airlines should be reciprocal. If something is given in one country, it should be the same in the other country. That’s one way to define what is considered ‘fair’.

Philippine Airlines, on the other hand, doesn’t even really engage much on the topic of slots in Manila. Instead, it focuses on the fact that it has a bilateral agreement in place that should be respected.

Has your opinion on this situation changed since we last reported on the story? Let us know in the comments.

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