Direct International Flights to Secondary Airports Increasing

A number of foreign airlines have launched or increased their direct flights to secondary airports in the Philippines this year while a number of others plan to launch new flights in the near future. 

flights to kalibo
Image Source: Alex Sevilla/Wikimedia
Most recently, Qatar Airways and Emirates launched direct flights to Clark International Airport in October. The new flights provide an alternate route for overseas Filipino workers headed to the Middle East. According to Domingo Enerio of the Tourism Promotions Board, interest is growing in establishing direct links between the country's top tourist source markets and the top tourist attractions in the country.

"Silkair intends to operate flights from Singapore to both Iloilo and Kalibo by next year," said Enerio. "Also, connectivity from China, Korea, and Japan, our top three tourist markets to the north, to various secondary airports, continue to be established."

Silkair recently announced that it would be adding an additional weekly flight on its Singapore-Cebu-Davao route beginning in November bringing the total weekly flights up to six. "Hopefully, the Davao market will give us the additional demand that we are looking for," said Leslie Thng, CEO of SilkAir. "We are trying to improve connectivity and we are looking at expanding in the Philippines and providing connections to our wider network in Europe, Australia, and the US."

SilkAir indicated that its flights between Kalibo and Singapore were not planned to begin until June of 2014 with an initial schedule of two weekly flights. However, local tourism officials have been encouraging the carrier to begin flying the route by the end of the year in time for the busy Christmas season. 

yakutia airlines boeing 737
Image Credits: Ceprilj Regalado/Kalibo Airport Facebook
Meanwhile, Kalibo International Airport and Boracay Island continue to be one of the greatest beneficiaries of the increasing interest in direct service. Kalibo Airport recently welcomed a Yakutia Airlines charter flight direct from Khabarovsk, Russia. Mandarin Airlines also restored direct service to the airport from Taipei with four weekly flights starting last month. The airline plans to increase the flights to daily service during the busy Christmas season. In addition, DragonAir of Hong Kong is considering offering direct flights to Kalibo. "Aside from Clark, we have Manila and Cebu," said Wilson Yam, DragonAir Regional Manager. "I think the next one would be Kalibo. But we are still studying that location. We don't have concrete plans yet."

Strengthening direct air links between key growth markets and the nation's top tourism attractions continues to be an important priority for the Aquino Administration that is setting a course to achieve 10 million international tourist arrivals by 2016. President Aquino has taken additional steps to ensure that the country remains attractive to foreign air carriers by offering tax relief and signing an executive order permitting foreign carriers to increase flights to secondary airports outside of Manila over and above any entitlements granted under existing air service agreements. The ultimate goal of such initiatives is to enhance the country's air transport connectivity in an effort to boost tourism. 

"This sent a strong signal to the global airline community that the Philippines is more than able to provide a level and more profitable playing field for international carriers that operate in the Philippines," said Enerio. He added that as part of the National Tourism Development Plan, the government is in the process of executing a number of strategic access infrastructure projects with a focus on airports and support infrastructure. In addition, the government is working on road infrastructure, rail infrastructure, and cruise port development programs as they have all been recognized as key ingredients necessary to support the influx of foreign and local tourists.

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