United Airlines (UA, Chicago O'Hare) has written a letter to the US Department for Transportation (DOT) to highlight its objections to the upcoming launch of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) service from Manila Ninoy Aquino Int'l to Seattle Tacoma Int'l, and to demand a level playing field for both carriers.

PAL intends to launch 3x weekly A350-900-operated services to Seattle on May 3, adding to its existing flights from the Filipino capital city to Honolulu, Los Angeles Int'l, New York JFK, and San Francisco, CA, according to the ch-aviation schedules module. However, the Star Alliance carrier said the Philippines was behaving unfairly by denying it an additional daily flight between Guam Int'l and Manila, while PAL continues to expand its operations to the US. In its letter to the DOT on February 10, United claims that PAL has "increased its US—Manila flights by 25%, seats by 30%, and available seat miles by 35%."

The US airline's counsel Aman Arshad also said that "United has no objection to PAL’s requested authority in principle" and that it too was "interested in furthering the same public interest goals...greater connectivity for consumers, and equally facilitate trade and tourism." In addition, United feels that "both carriers should be given a level playing field when it comes to expanding service between the US and the Philippines, and that is not the case currently."

United and PAL currently both operate 9x weekly on the 1,388-nautical mile (2,570-kilometre) sector between Guam and Manila, with the US carrier operating 2x weekly via Koror, and two of PAL's weekly flights being flown by its subsidiary Air Philippines (2P, Manila Ninoy Aquino Int'l). Despite its requests to increase capacity on the route, "United has been refused slots and other airport infrastructure necessary for its future flight plans, while Philippine carriers continue to increase capacity to the US."

On this basis, the US airline concludes its letter in saying that "it is in the public interest to grant PAL’s application for additional authority to expand service only when United is able to expand service as well."

“United continues to seek access at Manila to operate additional flights that will benefit customers and offer additional choice for customers," said a United spokesperson to ch-aviation. "United has raised concerns about its inability to increase service at Manila to the US DOT and is asking the DOT to defer action on the application of PAL until assurances are given that United has equal opportunity to add flights in this market.”

In response to United's letter, PAL sent its own letter to the DOT on February 18, where it accused the US carrier of an attempt to “hold hostage beneficial first nonstop service between Seattle and Manila.” It asked the DOT to reject the US carrier's objections, adding: “Under the circumstances, the failure to timely grant PAL’s application would be tantamount to a violation of the bilateral air transport agreement."

It added that this process "was not the appropriate forum for the Department to address United’s issues" and that United's access issues at Manila were "particularly misguided because PAL does not control the allocation of slots or infrastructure," at the airport.

In conclusion, PAL said: "Further delay of this application will only deprive Seattle, US citizens and businesses of the enormous benefits from PAL’s new nonstop service."