DUBAI-BASED Emirates Airlines is seeking extra flights to Manila after bilateral air talks held earlier this year to increase flight entitlements ended in a deadlock.
“We want extra flights to Manila,” Emirates Philippines Country Manager Satish Sethi said in a roundtable media briefing in Makati on Thursday.
The government has been urging airline companies from the United Arab Emirates to launch direct flights to Davao.
Sethi conceded that Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila is already congested. “Manila is constrained,” he said. “It was unfortunate that we could not reach a decision at the end of the talks,” he added.
Last April, bilateral talks were held with the objective of urging Emirates and Etihad, the national airline of the UAE, to launch regular direct flights between the UAE and Davao International Airport.
Civil Aeronautics Board Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla said that “the parties were close to agreeing…but the details could not be resolved yet.”
Sethi confirmed this and said they were still looking forward to increasing their flights to the Philippines but that their priority was Dubai-Manila flights.
“The Department of Transportation has been very flexible with Emirates and they were very supportive to agree that the talks will continue. There were some technicalities wherein we could not find common ground,” Sethi said.
“Manila, for us, we have so much demand, we can easily take four or flights even today without even doing any detailed study,” he added.
Currently, Emirates operates 18 weekly flights to Manila, and seven times weekly to Clark and Cebu.
Sethi said Emirates is challenged by the Department of Tourism’s target of having 12 million tourists by 2020.
“It is a challenging target and at the same time very exciting for us,” Sethi said. “If we see the government having very tough targets, it excites us,” he said.
Sethi said Emirates is not dismissing the possibility of flying to Davao and other locations.
“There are many cities we keep looking at. We know that not everyone who flies from Manila is actually from Manila. No destination is a ‘no’ for us. We are always optimistic. We never just accept a rejection outright,” he said.
Earlier, local travel industry officials expressed their opposition for the UAE’s request to be granted more flights to Manila.
“The Philippine government should not grant the request of the UAE airlines for more flights to Manila. The NAIA is already severely congested, as (its operator) Manila International Airport Authority now caps airlines to a maximum of 40 take-offs or landings every hour,” Davao Tourism Association President Gatchi Gachalian earlier said.