PHILIPPINE Airlines (PAL) will resume flights to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Brisbane, Australia this month, an expansion made possible after the flag carrier acquired two new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

The new flights will bring PAL’s international destinations to 26, in addition to 20 domestic destinations. PAL last flew to Brisbane in 1998, when the Asian financial crisis forced it to suspend its Australian services. It currently flies to Melbourne and Sydney. The airline is resuming flights to Riyadh after a four-year absence. It hopes to attract the bulk of some 2.2 million Filipinos in the Middle East with its non-stop service.

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The Manila-Brisbane flight will begin on March 17 and be offered twice weekly. The Manila-Riyadh flight will begin on March 28 and will be available four times a week, country manager Genaro Velasquez said in a press conference yesterday.

Special flights

Velasquez said the airline is still studying the possibility of adding to the international flights from Cebu. PAL operates Cebu-Seoul and Cebu-Narita flights and, on a trial basis, a Cebu-Hong Kong flight.

Bob Salazar, PAL’s assistant vice president for Visayas sales and services, said two special flights will arrive in Cebu from Hong Kong during the Holy Week, with the potential to bring in over 400 tourists.

Tourism department officials have cited the expansion in international and domestic flight frequencies, as well as the opening of additional accommodations, for Cebu’s rise last year as the top tourism destination in the Philippines. About 1.6 million tourists visited Cebu in 2009.

The Department of Tourism has projected a 15 percent increase in tourist arrivals in the country’s top 14 destinations this year, “as domestic travel movement continues to increase and international tourist markets recover from economic slack.”

Promotion

In a press statement, the airline said it will offer the new Brisbane and Riyadh flights because it acquired two units of the B777-300ER, “the world’s largest long-range twin-engine jetliner.” The aircraft can accommodate 370 passengers.

PAL is also set to launch next week a year-long series of promotional events, where up to 70,000 free seats will be given away as the airline prepares for its 70th anniversary in March 2011.