FLYING to member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and other global destinations is expected to become more convenient with more airlines to choose from, after the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) approved a series of petitions by airline companies seeking additional flights.
CAB is the government agency mandated to regulate the economic aspect of air transportation. It has supervisory powers and exercises control and jurisdiction over the country’s air carriers.
AirAsia Zest is the latest airline petitioner given an entitlement of 1,260 seats to Yangon, Myanmar.
“I am very happy with the decision of CAB to grant us 1,260 seats to Yangon, but sadly there is yet no decision on our application for Bangkok,” AirAsia Zest chief executive officer Joy Caneba said.
Last week, Cebu Pacific (CEB), the nation’s largest low-cost carrier, started its three times a week, non-stop flights from Manila to Kuwait after CAB gave the green light for the airline to mount additional flights to five international destinations.
CEB will also fly non-stop to and from Sydney four times a week, starting on September 9.
On October 4, CEB will inaugurate its thrice a week non-stop flights between Manila and Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Flights will depart from Manila every Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 9:55 pm, and will arrive in Dammam at 2:40 am the next day. The return flights will leave Dammam every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday at 4:10 am, and will arrive in Manila at 6:35 pm.
Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines (PAL) has also been cleared for an additional seven weekly flights to Canada. This would double PAL’s weekly flights to Canada, serving the Vancouver and Toronto routes.
AirAsia Zest said its Myanmar route would offer an alternative destination for Filipino tourists following the Myanmar government’s decision last year to extend visa-free privileges to Filipinos.
The visa-free entry agreement for Filipinos visiting Myanmar was signed during the state visit to the Philippines of Myanmar President U Thein Sein on December 5, 2013. The agreement is expected to boost tourism, trade, and investment between the two countries.
As a result of the agreement, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced that beginning January 4, 2014, Filipinos holding ordinary passports could enter Myanmar without a visa and stay there for up to 14 days.
The two countries also signed on May 20 a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on air services allowing the designated airlines of each country a total of 3,780 seats per week, or about three flights per day between Manila and Myanmar. Myanmar has three international airports.
The parties also agreed on unlimited traffic rights between all points in the Philippines, except Manila, and all points in Myanmar.
The MoU recognizes the need to modernize and update the air services agreement between the two countries that was first signed in 1979. Myanmar is a rapidly growing economy of about 60 million people and the MoU raises the potential for the development of direct connectivity with the Philippines.
The two governments held talks from May 19 to 20 in Yangon which included negotiations for air service agreements. Carmelo Arcilla, CAB executive director, said seat entitlements were part of the discussions.
The Philippines also conducted successful air negotiations with the governments of France in January, Singapore in February, and New Zealand in March.
The Philippine government is pursuing air talks as part of its open skies policy. Under Executive Order 29, airports other than the Ninoy Aquino International Airport are to be opened to accommodate more foreign traffic.
“We hope that the president will sign the Asean open skies and open Philippines, as this will have a tremendous boost for tourism. Our infrastructure system needs to be improved as well to be able to support an increase in capacity. It is clear though that we do have to act fast,” Caneba said.
Caneba said AirAsia Zest has no plans yet to increase its flights to Korea. “At the moment our focus is to provide an awesome travel experience for Koreans visiting the Philippines (Manila or Kalibo) and for Filipinos visiting Incheon or Pusan. We are exploring certain special flights for a limited period only, which will be disclosed in due time,” Caneba said.
She added: “Our strategy for Korea is to make this route better in terms of schedule. Out of Manila, we have the best flight schedule especially for the students and working tourists and businessmen. And with support from our authorities, we will now have our Incheon flight out of [NAIA] Terminal 3 to ensure that our Korean tourists will have a better impression upon arrival given how massive and advanced the Incheon airport is. We hired Korean cabin crew and trained them at the AirAsia Academy in Malaysia to better serve our Korean passengers and complement our awesome Filipino crew.”
“In partnership with KTO [Korean Tourism Organization] and other agencies, we hope to draw more and more Filipinos to visit Seoul and Busan by offering exciting promotions and excellent service,” Caneba said.
AirAsia flights to and from Manila, Macau, Kota Kinabalu and Seoul (Incheon) will depart and arrive at NAIA Terminal 3 starting September 15, 2014.
All domestic flights, however, including flights to and from Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai, will continue to use the NAIA Terminal 4.
“We encourage all guests to keep their email addresses and mobile numbers with their country code prefix updated in their AirAsia member profiles to ensure that the airline can reach them for timely assistance,” AirAsia said.