MANILA – Philippine Airlines chairman Lucio C. Tan ordered the deployment of a special PAL Boeing 747-400 flight to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand tomorrow (Dec. 1) to fly home Filipinos stranded by the political crisis that has shut the kingdom’s main airports in Bangkok for nearly a week.
Dr. Tan said the repatriation was out of goodwill and solidarity with fellow countrymen caught in a crisis away from home. He said PAL is ready to operate additional emergency flights to Thailand should the situation warrant.
Flight PR 732, a utility flight without passengers, departs Manila tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. It arrives at Chiang Mai International Airport at 3:00 p.m.
The return flight, PR 733, departs Chiang Mai at 5:00 p.m. and lands back in Manila at 9:30 p.m.
As of press time, about 200 passengers have confirmed seats on the flight to Manila. The number is expected to increase as the Philippine embassy in Thailand organizes the travel arrangements of Filipinos stuck in hotels in Bangkok and elsewhere.
The B747-400 is the largest aircraft in the PAL fleet with a capacity of 433 seats and 24 tons of cargo.
PAL cancelled its regular, twice-daily service to Bangkok on November 26 when anti-government protesters took over Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand’s main gateway, and later, the secondary gateway of Don Muang International Airport.
It has not been able to resume service since as the political crisis in Thailand deepened.
The flag carrier has a long history of airlifting Filipinos from trouble spots around the world.
During the run-up to the first Gulf War in 1990, PAL evacuated hundreds of Filipino refugees from Baghdad and Amman. In 1999, a PAL jet airlifted Filipinos from Phnom Penh as a civil war erupted.