By Jun Nucum
LOS ANGELES – The protested transfer of Philippine Airlines (PAL) gates at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) boarding gates has been rescheduled to June 15
The Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) management advised PAL of the new transfer date days before the transfer was to take effect beginning this month.
A PAL official vowed that “tuloy ang laban” (the fight is still on) for its passengers’ interests even as no reason for the postponement was cited in the updated PAL advisory except for LAWA’s own advisory.
“Philippine Airlines remains steadfast in its desire to remain at the main terminal of LAX for the well-being and convenience of our passengers. We continue to reach out to concerned bodies and individuals and there will be no let-up in our efforts,” said PAL North America Regional Head Bryan Lim.
PAL has written and met with other personalities that can somehow lead to reconsideration of their predicament and for PAL to retain its current boarding gates assignment.
Among those PAL has reached out to apart from LAWA management was Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti as LAWA is the LA City department that owns and operates LAX.
The attempt to reach out to Garcetti, however, bore unfavorable results as reports indicated that the LA mayor deferred to the decision of LAWA, saying he has been well-thought of and has considered everything.
Still, PAL reached out to other entities and personalities among them the President of Board of Airport Commissioners and Chair of the Trade, Travel and Tourism Committee of Los Angeles.
“We had a meeting with Los Angeles City Deputy Mayor of Economic Development William Chun last week. But (PAL has) no formal reply yet from them,” Lim said.
The flag carrier of the Philippines earlier voiced its protest and strong objection to LAWA decision requiring PAL to transfer its boarding gates at LAX to a farther location in the expanded Midfield Satellite Concourse (MSC) of the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) originally by the end of May 2021 to the detriment of its passengers.
PAL has been flying Filipino-Americans to and from the US West Coast since 1946, and to and from LAX since 1984 where they operated up to 17 weekly flights before the pandemic and already disagreed in talks with LAWA as early as 2018 on a possible move to the MSC citing, among others, degraded passenger experience.
PAL also reasoned that transfer will have a disproportionate impact particularly on senior citizen and persons with disabilities (PWD) passengers which are high in number accounting for the highest usage of wheelchair services at the TBIT.
PAL’s wheelchair use in 2019 was 18,082 for arriving passengers and 21,766 passengers for departure. Even during the pandemic, 2020 figures on wheelchair use were 8,428 for arriving passengers with 8,072 for departing passengers.
Other reasons cited by PAL in its objection for the decision included an additional 20 minutes from the present ten-minute walk from the check-in to the boarding gates at the main terminal, inconvenience poised by presence of mere vending machines with light snacks/drinks and a food delivery service to cater to the food needs of the departing passengers.
The relegation of PAL would also put PAL at a competitive disadvantage, as all their direct competitors — Korean Air, Asiana, EVA Air, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Japan Airlines and Singapore Airlines – all of whom serve Manila via their respective hubs.
An updated PAL advisory continues to remind and guide departing and arriving LAX passengers for an additional walk time to and from aircraft gates that asks passengers to allot at least 20 minutes additional time to walk to the departure gates at the MSC, availability of alternative transportation or terminal transfer vehicles (similar to golf carts) for passengers who are unable to walk the full distance, limited shops and food services, and that there is no change in check-in or arrivals location as all departing and arriving PAL passengers check-in and claim baggage.
The advisory also asks for passengers’ patience and understanding while they seek other venues to address their present predicament.