By Paolo Luis G. Montecillo
MANILA, Philippines - The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has approved the separate applications of three local airlines to increase flights to Japan.
An official from the regulator’s Air Rights and Operating Division said the applications of Air Philippines, Cebu Pacific and Zest Airways for flights to Japan were approved at a meeting on Thursday.
Cebu Pacific, which now offers three weekly round-trip flights to Osaka, Japan from Manila, sought the CAB’s permission to increase the service to once daily.
Zest Airways, formerly Asian Spirit, also got the go-signal to fly once daily to Osaka from Manila, and once daily from Cebu to Fukuoka.
"The market in Japan is a combination of tourists and overseas Filipino workers that have families there," Zest Airways Chairman Alfredo M. Yao said in an interview Tuesday.
While CAB officials have admitted that traffic between the two countries has declined as a result of the slowing global economy, Mr. Yao, who also owns juice maker Zest-O Corp., remained optimistic. Zest Airways plans to mount its new flights starting May.
"We intend to use these entitlements as soon as we can," Candice A. Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice-president for marketing, said in a separate phone interview.
But the Gokongwei-owned budget carrier had yet to decide when it would use the air rights.
Efforts to reach Air Philippines officials were unsuccessful.
Presently, the only local carriers offering flights to Japan are Cebu Pacific and flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL).
PAL flies from Cebu to Osaka twice weekly. The Lucio Tan-owned carrier revived the service in October, which it stopped offering in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the US.
Zest Airways said it had not decided on the ticket price for its Japan service. Both PAL and Cebu Pacific’s regular roundtrip flights to Japan cost around $500. — BusinessWorld