THE liberal bilateral air service agreement hammered out between the Philippines and Japan in September is already bearing fruit, while travel consultants are hoping that the increased frequencies and competitive airfares will stimulate the market.
Under the terms of the pact, flight allowances have soared from 119 to 400 a week. These services will be mounted by route newcomers PAL Express, AirAsia Zest and Tigerair Philippines, in addition to Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific Air (CEB), which already fly to Japan.
The agreement also clears flights from points outside Manila such as Clark, Cebu and Kalibo, to new destinations like Tokyo-Haneda, Hiroshima, Sapporo and Okinawa.
PAL commenced seven additional weekly Manila-Tokyo (Narita) flights on October 27, while CEB will add three weekly Manila-Osaka flights on December 20. The rest of the approved flights will begin in 1H2014.
Noting that it is “expensive to go to Japan”, Mita Custodio, operations manager of King of Travel, hopes the agreement will pave the way for more competitive fares, cheaper hotels and tour packages. A hotel in a less popular location can still cost US$180 a night.
While PAL currently dominates Manila-Japan routes, more airlines and more non-stop flights mean more travellers, he concluded.
Josie Santos, counter manager for Asia International Travel, added that the Manila-Tokyo/Osaka route is underserved.
An incentive group had to fly to Japan via Hong Kong as non-stop flights from Manila were not available, Santos shared.
Japan is the Philippines’ third largest source market for tourists.