The History Of Philippine Airlines

Headquartered at the PNB Financial Center in Pasay, just south of Manila, Philippine Airlines is the flag carrier of the Philippines. Since its founding in 1941, the airline was also known up until 1970 known as Philippine Air Lines. Philippine Airlines is the oldest commercial airline in Asia, operating under its original name.

Philippine Airlines central hub is at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in the nations capital Manila.

The airport is also known and still commonly referred to as Manila International Airport and is the primary airport serving Manila and its surrounding metropolitan area. Philippine Airlines has three secondary hubs at the following airports:

  • Mactan–Cebu International Airport (CBE) in Cebu
  • Bangoy International Airport(DVO) in Davao
  • Clark International Airport (CRK) in the province of Pampanga

According to the aviation data and statistics website ch-aviation, Philippine Airlines operates a mixed fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft. Philippine Airlines is also the only airline in the Philippines to operate the Boeing 777-300ER widebody jet.

How Philippine Airlines got started

Headed by leading industrialist Soriano Sr. and a group of Philippine businessmen, the group purchased the Philippine Aerial Taxi Company in 1941. Immediately renaming it Philippine Air Lines (PAL), the companies first flight took place on March 15, 1941, with a single Beechcraft Model 18 NPC-54. The aircraft carried two pilots and five passengers from Manila to Baguio on its maiden flight.

Following the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the Philippines a day later. After an intense aerial bombardment, ground troops came ashore north and south of the capital Manila. On December 8, 1941, the two Model 18s and their pilots were pressed into military service to evacuate American fighter pilots to Australia.

Airwolfhound via Wikimedia.”>


After a break of five years, Philippine Air Lines (PAL) resumed service on February 15, 1946, with five Douglas DC-3s that it used to fly to 15 destinations within the Philippines. In the summer of 1946, PAL became the first Asian carrier to cross the Pacific when on July 31, 1946, it flew a chartered DC-4 from Manila to Oakland, California. With stops in Wake Island, Johnston Atoll, and Honolulu, PAL flew 40 American soldiers back to the United States. PAL started a regular service between Manila and San Francisco following the flight’s success five months later.

Now with more DC-4s, PAL commenced service to Europe in 1947 but then suspended all flights to Europe, Japan, and the United States at the request of the Philippine government in March 1954. After five years, the flights were resumed as PAL was busy expanding its Asian network with Convair 340s. PAL then entered the age of turboprops when it replaced its Convair 340s with the Vickers Viscount 784.

PAL enters the jet age

With a lone Boeing 707, PAL entered the jet age in the 1960s and later replaced the 707 with Douglas DC-8 aircraft leased from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. It used the DC-8s for long-haul flights to Europe and the United States while the main aircraft in its fleet continued to be the Douglas DC-3 used for domestic routes.

PAL continued to expand, receiving its first Douglas DC-10 in July 1974, with Boeing 727, Boeing 747, and the Airbus A300 arriving three years later.

Philippine Airlines Getty

Philippine Airlines is trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Getty Images

Heavily impacted by the Asian financial crisis (1997–1999), PAL was forced to cut back, laying off hundreds of employees. This led to disputes between the airline’s owners and the employee’s union, forcing PAL to suspend all flights for two weeks. Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific took up all of PAL’s international and domestic routes during the shutdown. Following continued losses, PAL submitted its amended rehabilitation plan to the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission in 1999.

With the help of Lufthansa Technik Philippines (LTP), PAL returned to profitability before again suffering after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. PAL successfully exited from receivership in 2007 and now, like other airlines worldwide, is looking to recover from the massive downturn in travel brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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PAL’s current fleet

Currently, according to ch-aviation, Philippine Airlines fleet of 53 aircraft contains the following planes:

  • 4 X Airbus A320-200s
  • 18 X Airbus A321-200s
  • 6 x Airbus A321neos
  • 2 x Airbus A321neoNX
  • 11 x Airbus A330-300s
  • 2 X Airbus A350-900s
  • 10 X Boeing 777-300ERs

Have you ever flown with Philippine Airlines? If so, please tell us what you think of them in the comments.

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