South Africa Signs New Air Agreement with Philippines

The governments of the Philippines and South Africa recently signed a new air agreement, which permits carriers from both countries to mount new flights between the two nations. According to Carmelo Arcilla of the Civil Aeronautics Board, the memorandum of understanding signed on August 13, 2014, allows each country to launch seven weekly flights each.

Image Source: Erate
No route is currently being flown between the two countries by carriers from either side since it is a relatively small market. However, the South African government, who initiated the talks, stated that it was very keen to have at least one South African carrier link both of the countries. "Air services between the Philippines and South Africa would improve our aviation network and connect us to the emerging markets of Africa," said Arcilla.


The Philippines has been able to conclude talks with six different countries so far this year to establish updated air agreements. These countries include France, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, Myanmar, and Macau. Additional air talks are expected later this year with countries such as Malaysia, which are currently scheduled for August 27 to 28. The original schedule for talks with Malaysia was set for last April. However, Malaysian authorities were forced to postpone the talks as they launched the search for flight MH370, which has still not been found to date. Meanwhile, talks are also scheduled with Hong Kong from October 14 to 15 with the hopes of increasing seat entitlements between the two countries. 

The air agreements are regarded by the Aquino administration as an important step in developing business and tourism with surrounding nations. The expansion of low-cost carriers and the improvements in the Philippine economy have triggered the need to increase seat entitlements with a number of countries due to the increased demand for travel as low-cost carriers expand and the Philippines becomes a more popular tourism destination. Last year, the Philippines signed new air agreements with Japan, Macau, Brazil, Australia, Israel and Italy.

Low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific has already taken advantage of an agreement established with Australia as they prepare to launch direct flights from Manila to Sydney this September using their 436-seat Airbus A330-300 aircraft. However, Cebu Pacific is already calling for more talks between Australia and the Philippines to increase the number of seat entitlements as the carrier plans further expansion in Australia.

The air talks form part of an overall strategy by the Aquino administration to attract 10 million foreign tourists to the Philippines by 2016. The open skies policy was a move by the Aquino administration under Executive Order 29, which allows airports other than the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to be open for unlimited air traffic. The latest data reveals that 2.43 million tourists visited the Philippines in the first half of 2014, which is an increase of 2.2% from the 2.38 million achieved in 2013. This increase in tourists is still dominated by South Korea, representing 22.5% of the total share of foreign visitors, followed by the United States (16%), China (9.3%), Japan (9.1%), and Australia (4.6%).


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