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FULLY BOOKED: IS IT? OR IS IT NOT?


WHAT WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT “FULLY BOOKED” FLIGHTS, FARE RATES, SUBSIDY…and more


By: Cora Basada

I have been learning a lot about the airline industry lately: from types of planes to chartered flights, scheduled flights, non-revenue flights, flight slots, passenger load factor, weight and load balancing, and the term “fully booked”. This is what I have learned so far, to the best of my understanding, as I listen in (and sometimes join in) the discussions of the learned (not necessarily implying I belong to the cerebrals).

WHEN IS A PLANE “FULLY BOOKED”?

I have always visualized “FULLY BOOKED” as SEATS FULLY OCCUPIED down to the rear just like in buses; the case though, is not the same with airplanes. There is what they call “load capacity” or “passenger load factor” and “weight and load balancing”.

There is a maximum load capacity for every aircraft: where weight of fuel and baggage, along with the weight of passengers on-board, has to be considered. So for a 32-seater, it does not mean 32 seats fully occupied. It could only be 26, a safe enough number for load balance for the pilot to steer the plane airborne safely.

A turn-around aircraft leaves (i.e. Manila) with a tank full of fuel to reach its destination with enough remaining to enable it for its return trip. So a plane leaving Manila on a full tank could safely board 26 passengers with limited baggage, but could accept more passengers on its way back because half the fuel has been consumed: with weight reduced, this leaves additional “weight room” for additional passengers.

So if the plane coming from Manila has 26 passengers and 26 or 28 on its return flight, then those flights are “fully booked”.

FARE RATES and SUBSIDY

Initially, I thought that for chartered flights, rates would be computed as “charter rate divided by the number of passengers (32) = individual fare”. With the above understanding of load capacity, that leaves us with a NEW FORMULA: “charter rate divided by the number of passengers (26) = individual fare” resulting in a much higher fare than the first.

Example: IF the charter amount is 525,000.00 for a turn-around trip, the first formula gives us this: 525,000 divided by 2 (Manila-Borongan and Borongan-Manila) = 262,500 divided by 32 = 8,203.125.

With the NEW (second) FORMULA, it would be 525,000 divided by 2 = 262,500 divided by 26 = 10,096.15.

Currently our air commuters are paying roughly 7,000 per flight, a rate similar or may be lower by a thousand compared to that of the Manila-Tacloban flights with senior citizens enjoying their usual 20% discount.

IF passengers are paying 7,000 x 26 = 182,000 then we are short by 80,500 for one way, granting all passengers are paying the full fare (no senior citizen discount). Who pays the fare difference, then? This is where the LGUs come in and subsidize the flights: 161,000.00 per day of flight.

On the 2nd flight, we had 26 to Borongan and 18 to Manila. On the 3rd flight, we had 21 to Borongan and 28 to Manila. Not bad at all. Not as bad as the first flight when there were “misgivings” due to a “miscalculation” by some on the deal with Skyjet (remember there were rumors of an impending suspension nobody wanted to believe? And rather than verifying the veracity of the rumors with the concerned agency that was imposing the suspension, some chose to defend the airline company instead?) leaving us with 26 passengers to Borongan and only 5 to Manila using another company for the air service. But that’s all water under the bridge now…another manifestation of how we easily forget.




WILL THE CURRENT AIR SERVICE CONTINUE?

The Mayor is on exploratory talks with another airline that might be interested in flying to Borongan on “scheduled commercial flights”: meaning, the LGUs need not charter, but the flights will be set on a regular schedule (regular day and time every week), that leaves to and from Borongan with or without passengers at no cost to the city and provincial governments.

Before the haggling on the commercial side (fares and other charges) begins though, the company needs to know one more technical aspect: HOW SAFE is the Borongan runway for a bigger aircraft, in this case, a 50-seater?

The airline company is aware that Borongan airport has a 1.2 kilometer x 30 meters wide runway; but how thick and how compact is it to safely land 1,500 tons of metal?

Maybe the airline is much too interested with Borongan that it has made its own inquiries with the concerned agencies. They are however, facing a blank wall with regards to this one last information they need to know before they agree to fly to Borongan – for safety reasons for both passengers and aircraft, not to mention the company’s investments.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) charged with the maintenance of all airports in the country, and the Department of Transportation and Communications who funds the construction and development of such facilities have yet to respond to the official inquiries sent by the Mayor re the Pavement Classification Number (PCN). The PCN describes the thickness and compaction of the runway based on the Program of Work (POW) for its construction, if this was followed to a tee, and if this passed the regulating agency. This is what the airline companies need in order to make a decision as to what type of aircraft could land on a particular runway. (now…that’s what I call education outside the four-walled classroom and I’m really learning a lot).

The airline is interested and wiling to fly: this much has been pronounced by the General Manager himself, and in fact, they will be sending one of their technical people to do a survey of the airport while waiting for CAAP, DOTC or DPWH - whoever among the three is first to impart the much needed technical info regarding the capacity of the Borongan runway.

Some people will continue to insist that Borongan Airport is capable: because C130’s have landed previously and the runway did not give in to the weight and size of the aircraft. I hope that I will have to say this for the last time: military planes are designed differently to enable these crafts to land even in the most terrible landings fields – mainly because these are military planes used for military purposes even in the most “unholy” of places.

BEFORE ANOTHER AIRLINE DECIDES TO FLY TO BORONGAN ON A REGULAR SCHEDULE, WILL THE CURRENT AIR SERVICE BE ABLE TO KEEP THE WEDNESDAY FLIGHT AS SCHEDULED? The answer is NO: but for that, I would need to tell another story to give light on the WHY.

So FOR MORE INFORMATION, INQUIRIES and OTHER CLARIFICATIONS, everyone is ADVISED to contact PASHADA TRAVEL and TOURS @ 09157327319 and telefax (055) 560-9847 or email them at pashadatravel@yahoo.com .