THE Philippines is stepping up its courtship of foreign airlines, with a newly established team within the Department of Tourism (DOT) leading the way in proactively starting direct negotiations for more routes connecting with Asia.
As a result, Garuda Indonesia will become the first international airline to fly Jakarta-Manila, while Xiamen Airlines is waiting for appropriate slots at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to mount Xiamen-Manila services.
Erwin Balane, head of DoT’s Route Development team, which was formed last year, expects both routes to materialise by end-2014.
“No matter how much you promote the destination, it’s useless without air access,” explained Balane.
While Route Development is promoting Manila to legacy carriers, difficulties in obtaining slots at NAIA has diverted its attention to focus efforts on secondary gateways like Cebu, Kalibo and Davao.
Routes previously unchartered by foreign airlines but opened this year include: Singapore-Kalibo (Boracay) by SilkAir; Singapore to Kalibo via Cebu on TigerAir; AirAsia Malaysia’s Kota Kinabalu-Kalibo service; and Kota Kinabalu-Puerto Princesa by MASwings, although the latter was axed in September when parent firm Malaysian Airlines scaled down its operations.
Balane said a trip straight to secondary gateways without passing through Manila also means more competitive travel packages.