Gulf Air upgrades Manila Service

February 28, 2009

MANAMA, BAHRAIN, - Gulf Air, the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, intends to upgrade Manila service from Airbus 340 to Boeing 777-300ER aircraft starting May this year.

The airline recently signed an agreement to lease four new Boeing 777 ER aircraft from Jet Airways as part of the airline's re-fleeting and product-enhancement strategy. Three of the new aircraft will join the airline during March 09 while the fourth one will join in May.

The aircraft will be used on a number of routes including flights to London, flights to Kuala Lumpur, flights to Bangkok and intra Gulf Routes, gradually replacing the Airbus 340s.

"The introduction of these four aircraft is another important step in our strategic direction towards re-fleeting, enhancing our product and strengthening our presence as the carrier of choice in the Middle East and beyond," said Gulf Air Chief Executive Officer Mr. Bjorn Naf.

The kingdom of Bahrain and the Philippines recently expanded its Air agreement Wednesday with the Middle Eastern state bagging more flight entitlement for the island State.

Bahrain is now entitled to 50 weekly flights to the Philippines, up from the current 13. Philippines, on the other hand, has no flight restrictions to Bahrain. Philippine Airlines on the other hand enjoyed fifth freedom to London and Europe.

The 50 flights are divided as follows:
8 flights to Manila, from 6
28 flights to Clark, 5th freedom rights
7 flights to Cebu, from 1
7 flights to other international airports.

Porvenir P. Porciuncula, deputy executive director of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), described the air talks with Bahrain as "very friendly and cordial."

Philippine Airlines flies daily between Manila and Bahrain under a code-sharing agreement with Gulf Airways. It is also planning to launch new services from Cebu.

The wide body Boeing 777-300ER is the largest long-range twin-engine commercial airplane in the world. It extends the 777 family's span of capabilities, bringing twin-engine efficiency and reliability to the long-range market. The aircraft come with a luxurious interior and a host of amenities providing the most comfortable travel experience to both premium and economy class passengers in a three-class configuration, i.e., First, Business and Economy with a capacity of 312 seats.

Bahrain bags more flights to RP

By Jose Bimbo F. Santos

February 27, 2009

THE TWO-DAY air service negotiations between the Philippines and Bahrain ended yesterday with that Middle Eastern state bagging more flights.

Specifically, Bahrain is now entitled to 50 weekly flights to the Philippines, up from the current 13. Philippines, on the other hand, has no flight restrictions to Bahrain.

The 50 flights are divided as follows: eight flights to Manila, 28 to Subic Freeport, seven to Cebu, and another seven to other points except Manila.

Porvenir P. Porciuncula, deputy executive director of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), described the air talks with Bahrain as "very friendly and cordial."

The Philippine negotiating panel, led by Transportation and Communication Under-secretary Doroteo A. Reyes II, included representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Tourism, CAB, and airport authorities.

Philippine Airlines flies daily between Manila and Bahrain under a code-sharing agreement with Gulf Airways.

Cebu Pacific Air, meanwhile, said yesterday that it was open to mounting flights to Bahrain. "We welcome the development in the RP-Bahrain agreement. We are always looking for possible destinations for our route network expansion," Cebu Pacific Vice-President for Marketing and Product Candice A. Iyog said in a separate phone interview.

Mr. Porciuncula said Zest Airways had informally expressed interest in mounting flights to Bahrain, though this could not be confirmed with airline executivves as of press time.

The country is next scheduled to negotiate with Australia and Brunei.

Cebu Pacific applying for rights to fly UAE

talks with SQ for triple seven on going

February 27, 2009

Manila - Low Cost Carrier airline, Cebu Pacific is applying for rights to fly Abu Dhabi and Dubai of the United Arab Emirates, sources from the CAB said.

Lance Gokongwei, the Airline President said that they are looking at the UAE market. "We hope to acquire the rights to fly in the Middle East to serve more overseas Filipino workers. For the moment, we are looking at UAE."

The airline is currently in talks with Singapore Airlines for their 4 Boeing 777 aircraft slated for retirement this year. Singapore Airlines is retiring their 12 year old triple seven as new Airbus 330 joins their fleet by March this year.

The Civil Aeronautics Board said that the airline will probably fly from Clark as the entitlements for Manila were already taken by both Emirates and Philippine Airlines. The new ASA between UAE and RP added 42 new flights to and from Clark airport. The Philippines was also granted 21 more weekly flights to Cebu and another 21 more to be used to other points other than Manila, Clark and Cebu .

The airline intends to fly to Australia, Japan and the Middle East. Currently, Cebu Pacific is in the process of applying rights to fly to the Middle Eastern countries that has recently expanded bilateral air transport agreement with the Philippines. CAB will meet its Australian counterpart this March.

Philippine Airlines shines in Vancouver

As other Flights in and out plummet
By Michael Kane

Traffic at Vancouver International Airport plummeted 16 per cent last month to 21,105 aircraft movements from 25,421 in January last year. That compares to a national drop of 12.9 per cent, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday.

After welcoming a record 17.85 million passengers last year — 350,000 more than in 2007 — Canada’s second-busiest airport is expecting a drop-off of about 4.5 per cent this year.

While a number of airlines have announced capacity reductions at YVR, others are expanding service for the spring and summer, said airport spokeswoman Kate Donegani.

Singapore Airlines said it is pulling out of Vancouver in April because of falling passenger volumes. However, Philippine Airlines is increasing flights to Manila from five to seven a week in March and China Eastern Airlines will offer daily service to Shanghai starting in June, up from three times a week.

Donegani said YVR was still tracking its own numbers for aircraft traffic in January, but a decline had been expected because of the economic downturn.

While fewer flights mean fewer landing fees, Donegani said the Vancouver Airport Authority is committed to to keeping its landing costs to the airlines as low as possible. It currently has the lowest landing fees of any major airport in Canada.

Nor does it anticipate raising its $15 airport improvement fee charged to most passengers.

“This airport and airports around the world are facing some challenges with the economy being what it is, but we’ve budgeted for that and anticipated some reduction in this year’s business,” Donegani said.

Most of the airport’s $1.4-billion expansion program will be completed this year and no financing difficulties are anticipated, she said. While the airport is trying to minimize costs, no layoffs are planned.

Zest flies Davao on March 1

Offers all-you-can-drink Zest-O juice on flights

DAVAO CITY — Zest Airways, Inc., formerly Asian Spirit Airlines, will launch its maiden flight on March 1, 2009 and intends to slug it out with Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific on Manila -Davao route.

The airline controlled by juice magnate Alfredo Yao, will offer competitive rates and dring all you can Zest-O juice drink in flight said Mark E. Hilario, Zest Air assistant vice-president for sales and marketing.

Neil Jason P. Ampo, passenger sales executive, said all the fleets of Asian Spirit had been mothballed since Zest Air decided that it was best for the airline to start fresh with new fleets of aircraft. The airline currently operates 2 airbus 320 with seat capacity of 162, and 4 56-seater Xian MA60 turbo prop airplane.

The airline is undeterred by the slowing economy and the price wars between bigger rivals Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.

Mr. Hilario said that the "The challenge really is how we can create a travel need through good package and competitive rates." Zest Air intends to offer a better service than what Cebu Pacific or Air Philippines currently does, and one of them is by offering drink all you can Zest-O juice drink in whatever flavor the passenger would like.

A promotional all-in rate of P1,698 will offered initially for the Manila-Davao route. But Mr. Ampo said the price would go up to P1,788 after the promotional period. Manila-Davao routes will be served by a 162-seater Airbus 320 and initially by a smaller 56-seater Xian MA60 turbo prop airplane.

A promotional all-in rate of P1,698 will offered initially for the Manila-Davao route. But Mr. Ampo said the price would go up to P1,788 after the promotional period.

Zest Air flies to Caticlan, Busuanga, Calbayog, Catarman, Legaspi, Marinduque, Naga, Puerto Princesa, San Jose and Virac from Manila aside from its regular routes to Tagbilaran, Tacloban, Iloilo, Cebu, Kalibo and Davao.

Mr. Hilario said Zest Air would also launch its Incheon service in May, although it will be a chartered flight to accommodate Korean tourists and students coming to the Philippines. It will be the airlines first international destination.

Zest Air is also applying for rights to fly Hong Kong and Guangzhou in China. It is also bent on serving the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area) route network, either or both from Zamboanga or Davao to Manado, Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan.

Panglao International, an airport in the sand

Special Report

A story of how a simple 323 million pesos domestic airport transfer becomes an impossible 7.5 billion pesos international airport project


Panglao Airport Development Project was originally planned to replace Tagbilaran Airport whose expansion made difficult by encroaching residential houses. Its plan is similar to that of Bacolod Silay, which is a new international standard domestic airport with provisions for expansion encompassing 120 Hectares. Along its circuitous process for loan approval from a simple issue of domestic airport transfer in 1994 to its unfounded and oversized growth in 2001, as it metamorphosed into what in now called Panglao International.

Lets examine the story on how it became to be.


In 1994, SWEDAVIA, a company in Sweden, was tasked by the Ramos government to conduct feasibility study on the alternative site of Tagbilaran Airport.

Swedavia operates as a fully independent international civil aviation consultancy with a multi-skilled background and an extensive experience from international aviation projects. The company has provided services to more than 50 countries as well as to institutions. Eurocontrol, European Union, European Space Agency and ICAO have all been provided services by Swedavia.

The company submitted to the Air Transportation Office (ATO) a 436 page report detailing the constraints of the airport. Among those listed is the limited runway approaches because of high terrain. The straight-in approach to runnway 35 is obstructed by the 196-meter Biking Hill while the approach to runway 17 is blocked by the Maribojoc mountain range, with elevations of 1l,000 to 13,000 meters.

The study also said the airport had virtually no space for expansion. The fence is located at the property line for the most part of the 50-meter distance from the runway centerline. Houses have been built outside and even along the fence.

Further, the report said that the development of a 150-meter wide strip as a minimum requirement for B737 operations would "require considerable additional land on both sides of the runway and, as a consequence, relocation of existing residential developments" is necessary.

Swedavia suggested a runway that was 2,000 meters long and 45 meters wide. That proposal proved to difficult to implement. If ever it can be extended, ATO can only manage to extend the runway to 1,800 meters. Beyond that line were the residential houses which need to be cleared as far as 1,000 meters for an obstacle free approach.

The recommendation calls for the demolition and relocation of Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary buildings and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish Church. The City will also have to endure building restrictions and severe air and noise pollution particularly along its flight path.

The demolition and relocation plan entails huge capital expenditure as compared to finding a new site. Thus, it recommended minimum investments in the airport and speed up development of a new facility at a more suitable site.

Swedavia pointed to two alternative areas on nearby Panglao Island as future airport site. One site cuts across Barangays Tawata to Bil-isan while the other straddles Barangays Bolod and Libaong. Panglao is linked to Tagbilaran via a causeway. It concluded that Panglao island is a poor alternative airport because of its soil foundation issues.

The proposed Panglao Airport Development Project was estimated to cost P323 million and was due for implementation in 2002.


In the Philippines, the blueprint for tourism development has been the Philippine Tourism Master Plan (TMP) that was begun in 1989 and was completed in 2001. The concept of sustainability was not yet incorporated in the plan until 1993 when then Department of Tourism (DOT) secretary Narzalina Lim presented to the World Tourism Organization (WTO) the Philippine Plan in 1993. The TMP includes establishment of Tourism Estate.

From the TMP, there are only two places in the Philippines declared by the government as tourism estates: Samal Island in Mindanao and Panglao Island in Bohol. While Samal Island is partly developed by Malaysian investors, the Panglao Estate is developed by DOT, mainly because the supposedly Built Operate Transfer(BOT) project failed to generate private investors. The total project cost is $42.7 million. Its development was plagued by land acquisition controversy and social unrest, yet the Ramos government was bent on developing the islands tourism potential.

The Panglao Island Estate will convert the whole island into an integrated tourist paradise where amenities like aqua sports, diving and dancing centers, and golf course among other land sports facilities will be constructed. The proposed Panglao Tourism Estate Plan has been identified as one of the priority tourism projects in the 1995 Government Investment Plan.To implement the project, President Fidel Ramos issued Memorandum Order No. 338 creating the Inter–Agency task Force to implement the Tourism Estate of Panglao.

Panglao Island Tourism Estate (PITE), through its Management Committee, took 2 years to finally start at a budget cost of P200 million.

The money were used among others, for the drafting of the Panglao Island Comprehensive Land Use Plan in 1995, the inventory of cadastral and landowners mapping in 1996 and Environmental Impact Assessment for the Panglao Tourism Development Project in 1997 . This project was undertaken by Seastems Inc.


Seastems Inc. is an environmental consultancy firm commissioned by President Ramos to conduct ecological profiling of Panglao Island. The company prepared the Ecoprofile of Panglao Island Report in 1997. It also submitted another report on Environmental Impact Assessment for the Panglao Tourism Development Project in 2001.

Since potential hazards and negative impacts have been identified with the development of Panglao Island as a tourism estate, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was conducted by Seastems.

The EIA done by Seastems, Inc. covers 2,023-hectare proposed Panglao Island Tourism Estate (PITE) area of which the airport is included. The company finally made the delineation of 2,000 hectares for the Panglao Island Tourism Estate (PITE) in 1999-2000.

Panglao Island has a total land area of 9,000 hectares. The profiled PITE area confirmed Swedavia finding that the land upon which the airport is to be built sits on a limestone and coral deposits.

The Seastems 50 million pesos study covers the environmental impact of the tourism estate as a whole, and it did not addressed other factors considered by SWEDAVIA, an airport expert, involving the building of the airport. Both concluded problems on safety and environmental issues. Its final report was never seen by the public. Its major content was however known as shown on the PIDS discussion paper. It was shown that the government withdrew the new airport construction project as part of PIPE. In year 2000, DOTC acknowledged that they will instead continue upgrading the Tagbilaran airport, as previously recommended by SWEDAVIA.

In a surprising twist of event, the final SEASTEM Report submitted in 2001 issued a clean Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) profile WITHOUT THE AIRPORT component as part of the Tourism Estate. The PIPE got the tourism construction project going after it was issued an Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC) .

Meanwhile DOTC hired the services of TCGI Engineers, is a local engineering firm headed by Virgilio Madraza. Its main office can be found in the 9th Floor of Feliza Building, 108 V.A. Rufino Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City. It is one of the firms that do consultancy service to JBIC on airport construction and development in the Philippines. It undertook site investigation on the proposed Panglao Airport. In 2000, a feasibility study by the TCGI Engineers was completed and submitted to the Investment Coordinating Committee Technical Board of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). It supported the position of Seastems and Suedavia.

When the ECC was issued in 2001, Panglao Airport came to life again, like a phoenix rising from its ashes, or in this case rising from the sand.

In August 27, 2005 issue of Manila Bulletin, the paper reported that NEDA Board requested DOTC in December 2002 to downscale the airport into a domestic airport instead of its plan of constructing an airport of international standards.

The airport has now a staggering cost figure of $ 50.1 million, or an estimated cost amounting to P2.614 billion pesos. It has a new name too. Panglao Bohol International Airport (PBIA).


In 2001, Panglao Airport Project, now repacked as PBIA, Development Project, was being offered to Japan Bank for International Cooperation(JBIC) for funding. It was supposed to be part of the 25th yen credit package to the country. The 323 million project suddenly became 2.6 billion. It was disapproved outright for economic non-viability.

In 2004, the project was offered to the Swedish government for funding. Sweden was surprised to see that the 323 million project recommended by Swedavia, a noted airport specialist, swelled to US$ 75 million (4.2 billion pesos). It declined the offer to finance it saying that its economic viability is unrealistic.

It was offered again in the 27th yen credit package in 2007 this time with a balloon amount of 4.7 billion. It was disapproved for the second time by JBIC, this time with more reasons. Its outright disapproval prompted President Arroyo to issue an Administrative Order commanding the MIAA to take control and fund Panglao airport instead. But this order came with plenty of legal issues yet to be resolved starting with MIAA Charter.

The ECC was finally issued for the airport in favor of DOTC on June 3, 2008. The problem is no foreign funding agency is willing to fund the project for a simple reason and the government is not listening.

Therefore, the project will be funded wholly by government from the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and some of its attached agencies, and the Department of Tourism (DOT). It will be jointly implemented by the DOTC and the MIAA. Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Alfonso Cusi said that the P4 billion will have no foreign loan component for obvious reason.

The project was supposed to start in July 2008. Alfonso Cusi, general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), said that the airport would be finished by 2010. He bared the P3 billion outlay is a "sure deal" after business tycoon Lucio Tan paid P3 billion as part of Philippine Airlines' payables to the MIAA as rental fees of the Centennial Airport which is being used by PAL as terminal building of all its domestic and international flights. The amount is now placed under escrow intended as the budgetary outlay for the airport project.

After the capsule laying, not a single heavy equipment ran the propose airport area up to this date. Tirso Serrano, Assistant General Manager for airport development and corporate affairs, confirmed that up to this time the project is not even good on paper and that there is no single contractor listed to undertake the project. He said that the consultancy firm TGCI Engineers had just completed the feasibility study while Phil JAC Inc. had been commissioned to do the new airports detailed design. It was hoped that the airport becomes small again as originally planned.

It turned out that the cost of airport project has now escalated to almost 80 percent of the approved NEDA valuation based on the original design. In a report from Manila Bulletin on September 28, 2009, the well kept secret-no-more of the new design was shed to light by Governor Erico Aumentado when he publicly announced in his local radio program in Tagbilaran that he was asking Malacañang for help to address the cost overrun. Aumentado said the runway has been reoriented 32 degrees in order to avoid plowing into the Alona Beach resort. According to him, there is need for engineering intervention, otherwise the airport would hit many crevices and depressed areas.

According to Bohol Cronicle, the Governor, in justifying the increase gave a comparative analysis between the airports in Panglao and Laguindingan in Misamis Oriental. He said the former has a 2.5-kilometer runway compared to the latter's 2.1 kms. only. Panglao Airport's terminal building will have a 1.5-hectare floor area while Laguindingan's has 7,000 square meters only but costs more than the former that is locally funded.

The Governor failed to mentioned why Laguindingan airport in Cagayan De Oro got financing from Korea and why Panglao airport failed to get any nod from the foreign lenders. Instead, it crow for a local funding that is not there. The funding anomaly came also from the Governor's mouth that it went instead to CAAP.

The Philippine Japan Airport Consultants (PHIL-JAC) has submitted a revised detailed engineering design which substantially increased the project’s budget to P7.5 Billion pesos from the final figure of P4.7 Billion. It effectively overhauled the approved technical designs of JICA accredited TGCI.


As part of the 1991 Tourism Master Plan (TMP), the policy was to continue to implement the program that in the 2001-2004 Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP), the Arroyo administration devotes a separate chapter to tourism, entitled “Putting the Philippines on the International Tourism Map."

The constant argument for the Philippines dismal failure in tourism has always been airports, yet it has plenty of open international airports which remained a white elephant. Meaning, good for decorations only, as most of these airports are not earning international revenues as expected.

Its interesting to point out that in the PIDS report for Sustainable Tourism in the Philippines, the 1991 Tourism Master Plan promoted the hub and spoke system of air travel following the successful story of Thailand. The aim was to bring tourists to satellite destinations via at least one gateway. The development of an efficient transportation network must be accelerated to allow tourists to move with reasonable costs from one destination to another at the shortest time possible.

For the Japanese market, for instance, access (preferably direct) is a very important decision factor for choosing a destination. If more gateways like Palawan can be developed, tourists (domestic and foreign) will no longer be obliged to fly back to Manila or Cebu for an international or even domestic flight. A liberal transportation policy is needed to make this happen.

But did the airlines, foreign or domestic followed the cue? No because there was no international passenger traffic sufficient to economically justify its operation. That is the first concept of airline business.

DOTC Secretary Mendoza argued the need for the "aeronautical highway" to link the Philippine islands. Yet in the same event, he said that foreign tourists are bothered by the hassle of airport transfers that is why the Panglao Airport was constructed.

He never answered the question and the issue relative to foreign tourist traffic in the Philippines and why no airlines operate internationally to almost 2/3 of its listed international airport inspite of it being open to foreign airlines.

He also failed to answer squarely the question on why they insist on making a big one when they can start with a small airport, and why immediately international when they can make and start it as domestic just like Bacolod and Iloilo does and grow from there.


The BPIA, if constructed will be the 11th international airport for the country which has managed to accumulate only 3 million foreign tourists in 2008. Almost all of of them entered in NAIA, while the rest came from Mactan, Clark, Davao, Zamboanga, and Kalibo in that order. Of those mentioned, only 3 airports are considered to be truly international with multiple flights from different airlines and substantial tourist registrants.

Malaysia which is also an archepelagic country like ours managed to entice 16 million tourists, yet it has only 6 international airports.

Thailand , which is the tourist mecca in Asia managed to post 14 million tourists but has only 6 international airports, while Indonesia which is 6 times bigger than the Philippines has only 9 international airports, despite its massive archipelago.

MCIAA General Manager Adelberto F. Yap, already argued that an international airport in Panglao, Bohol is not economically viable and could only increase the Philippines’ foreign debt. He further said that If this project is implemented, the National Government will only lose a huge amount in loan interests because an international airport in Panglao will just become a white elephant if it will only cater to one or two aircrafts.


In the Airport Master Plan, the Terminal Building capacity (7,600 square meters) will host an assumed 969,000 passengers a year or capacity of near 500 at any one time. Using simple arithmetic, that is equivalent to 2,654 passenger movements per day in the airport.

An Airbus 319 monoclass carries 150 passengers, while the Airbus 320 carries 180. Assuming, that both Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, which has 3 frequencies daily, would both fly A320 and suddenly increase its frequncy to 5 each with a total of 10 flights per day starting 2010, the terminal would accommodate only 1,800 passengers. Way too far to even meet the minimum capacity. From that simple calculations, the airport needs to accommodate 15 flights of A320 daily.

The projected capacity of Panglao airport is even much higher than Iloilo, Cagayan and Bacolod airports, and to think these are foreign funded airports that has been cautiously evaluated by foreign donors. To top it all, the technical evaluation as prepared by TCGI Engineers is off limit to the general public.

The economic internal rate of return (EIRR) of the airport is listed as 23.6 percent,
even higher than the NEDA threshold of 15 percent. If it was the case then it would have no problem convincing Japanese, Korean or Swedish government or any other funding agency to finance it. In fact it was same proposal that was rejected by JBIA twice.

In Michael Canares blog, Governor Aumentado has said boasting that the study conducted by the TCGI Engineers reported a 23.6% economic internal rate of return. UP economist Dr. Ernesto Pernia questioned this claim and demanded for a copy of the study.

Dr. Pernia’s major contention was, if this was indeed true, then there would have been any problem for the project to get low-interest loans that would have freed government resources for other more ‘poverty-reducting’ projects. Also, he questioned why a group of engineers were the ones who assessed the financial viability of the project.


From 323 million in 1994, six years later it become 2.6 billion. In 2003 it breached 2.7 billion mark. By 2005, the project amount grew to unprecedented heights at US$ 75 million, that is equivalent to 4.2 billion. In the final NEDA Report, the project cost 4.7 billion pesos in 2008. In September 2009, the project cost was now 7.5 billion pesos. Its almost the equivalent amount for 3 new airports built in Iloilo, Bacolod and Cagayan de Oro combined.

The airport land area grew too from the original 33 hectares in 1994, 120 in 1997, to 216 hectares in 2008. The original Swedavia runway grew too to 500 more extra meters.

The irony of it is that the original airport never got the nod of foreign funding agencies for being too environmentally unsound and economically unrealistic. Yet it never perturbed the Arroyo government in growing it out of proportion.

Boholano Bloggers call the the international airport envisage for Panglao Island nothing but a mirage, promoted by a government that doesn't have the money to finance its construction, amidst rising foreign loans and widening budget deficits. Somewhere the illusion must stop.

MIAA to finance Panglao airport

By Darwin G Amojelar

THE Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said it would infuse billions of pesos to build the Panglao Bohol International Airport that would serve as the popular tourist destination’s gateway to the world.

In a statement, the airport authority said it has committed to invest about P3 billion of corporate funds to construct the international airport in Panglao island.

MIAA’s investment in Pangalo is pursuant to executive order 341, which states that it has administrative control and supervision over all international airports in the country.

The airport authority said it has completed the feasibility study through the TCGI Engineers and has commissioned the Phil. JAC Incorporated to undertake the detailed design to help with the smooth implementation and construction of the new airport.

The construction of the Panglao Airport will not only benefit the province of Bohol and Central Visayas but will also positively impact the regions in central Philippines, which heavily depend on tourism.

The 100-hectare Panglao Airport will facilitate travel in the different tourism loops within the Visayas region and can accommodate Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 jets.

Meanwhile, MIAA is also extending its assistance in the upgrade and construction of the Caticlan Airport.

Tirso Serrano, MIAA assistant general manager for airport development, said these projects would boost passenger traffic within the country, pursuant to the objectives and thrust of the national leadership and boost the tourism sector.

Alfonso Cusi, MIAA general manager, said the authority plans to expand the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminals to handle the increasing passenger traffic for the next five to 10 years.

Last year, the NAIA complex, handled about 90 percent of all international traffic in the country. It accounted for more than 22 million passengers for both international and domestic movements, which is 75 percent of all passenger movements in the country.

“By opening NAIA Terminal 3 to commercial operations, the country’s main gateway upped its terminal capacity to 32 million passengers a year . . . The newly opened Terminal is now operational, catering to domestic flights to most local destinations and International flights to Asian countries,” MIAA said.

NAIA capacity to rise to 32 million in 5 years

NAIA breach 22 million mark in 2008.

February 25, 2009

Manila - Philippines Prim ire International gateway is expected to handle 32 million passengers in five years, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said yesterday.

Latest data from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) complex showed a total passenger movements of 22 million in 2008.

This year, the airport is expecting a 5-percent growth in domestic passenger traffic and anywhere from zero to 2-percent growth in international passenger movements due to the global economic crisis.

NAIA complex handled about 90 percent of all international traffic in the country, and which account for 75 percent of all passenger movements in the country. Of the 22 million passengers, 11.88 million flew within the country and the remaining 10.4 million accounted for international passengers.

MIAA General manager Alfonso Cusi said that other than the opening of the Naia Terminal 3, the MIAA has also embarked on other projects such as the renovation of the Terminal 1 arrival lobby and the expansion of existing runway to service wide-bodied airplanes. Airbus 380 of Emirates Airline is expected to service Manila early next year.

In view of the estimated increase in passenger traffic and new airlines serving Manila within the next years, the MIAA will also increase the passenger capacity of the holding gates and put into place additional check-in counters.

The Naia complex, said Cusi, would undergo further improvements to better handle the increasing passenger traffic for the next decade.

The airport authority meanwhile revealed plans to build new cargo houses that will cater to the expected growth in cargo volume. MIAA intends to build a new cargo terminal at the old domestic terminal adjacent to Terminal 2 Annex in the future. The government also wants to integrate the Village Hotel to the extension complex, as it is now studying the probability of converting airport properties into attractive and functional airport cities, that will bring in bigger and better businesses closer to the airport complex.

The opening of Terminal 3 increased the passenger capacity of NAIA complex to 32 million.

Philippine Airlines' horror third quarter, -53% net margin

Asia Pacific Airline Daily
February 24, 2009

PAL Holdings, the parent of Philippine Airlines, had a disastrous quarter ended Dec-08, registering a net margin of -53% in the period - one of the worst results of airlines globally recorded to date by the Centre for that period. The massive US
D215.9 million net loss included USD42.4 million in actual and mark-to-market losses from its fuel hedging contracts. The company reported a net loss of USD17 million in the same period last year (attributed to a USD26 million currency loss).

The Dec-2008 quarter losses came despite a 17% increase in revenue to USD409 million, helped by higher yields and rising passenger numbers. PAL carried 2.34 million passengers during the three-month period, up 24% year-on-year, with a passenger load factor of 74%. PAL cited the "continued patronage of overseas Filipino worker traffic" for the increase in demand. But traffic from this segment could be imperilled if job losses flow as a result of the global economic downturn.

Expenses rose 47% in the Dec-2008 quarter, mostly related to flying operations (+52%) where high fuel prices continued to affect PAL, maintenance (+9.1%), aircraft & traffic servicing (+15.8%), as well as higher passenger service, reservation/sales and general/administrative costs. "Other expenses" increased 4.2 times, relating to unrealised changes in the fair value of outstanding hedges.

The airline had a USD9.9 million currency gain in the Dec-2008 quarter. PAL Holdings incurred losses of USD287 million for the nine months to 31-Dec-08.

Better last quarter seen - it can't get much worse

In a statement, PAL said it expects better fourth quarter results as it takes advantage of lower fuel prices in the world market. The airline stated, "with the concerted efforts of management and employees to cut costs and improve operating margins, PAL expects to turn around its financial performance and post an income for the [three month] period to March 2009".

But the expected profit will not be enough to pull the full-year result into the black. On 11-Feb-09, PAL confirmed it expects to report a full-year loss, following last year's USD30 million profit.

Looking ahead, lower fuel prices will continue to help PAL. The may also be a surge of returning workers, as job conditions elsewhere deteriorate. But beyond that, an uncertain economy and stiff competition at home will present continuing challenges.

PAL will be able to draw on the fact it has done the hard yards in restructuring while times are good, so it faces the year ahead with at least that confidence. - CAPA

LTP declares $18-M cash dividend

by Honey Madrilejos-Reyes
February 24, 2009

Lufthansa Technik Philippines (LTP) has declared a cash dividend of $18.4 million to its two major shareholders, MacroAsia Corp. of the Lucio Tan Group and Lufthansa Technik AG.

Of the total dividend payout, MacroAsia, which owns 49 percent of LTP, will get $9.016 million (roughly P433 million) while Lufthansa Technik AG will secure $9.384 million for its 51 percent stake in the joint venture firm.

The first payment of $16.2 million will be made on or before the end of March and the second payment covering the balance of $2.2 million will be done in October.

MacroAsia said they will reserve the dividend payout for future expansion plans.

LTP is the only company which provides a wide range of aircraft maintenance, repairs and overhaul (MRO) services at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and the Clark International Airport.

Following the signing of the joint venture agreement on July 12, 2000 and its subsequent registration with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) as an economic zone locator on August 30, 2000, LTP started its commercial operations on September 1, 2000. It consistently generates both domestic and export revenues and enjoys tax incentives as a PEZA-registered entity.

LTP also has a concession agreement with the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) which grants the company the right to operate as a provider of aircraft MRO services at NAIA.

Among its major clients are flag carrier Philippine Airlines, Lufthansa Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways and other international airlines that fly to Manila.

The company also provides technical ground handling services to Air Niugini, China Airlines, Egypt Air, Eva Air, KLM Royal Dutch, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Silk Air and Cathay Pacific Airways. - BM

Etihad keeps the best airline seat

A gastronomic journey with Etihad

By Izah Morales

MANILA, Philippines—With global travel demand nose-diving, Etihad Airways tries to find ways to entice people to fly. And serving gourmet food based on the passenger’s choice provides a unique gastronomic mid-air experience.

Dubbed as the “inspired service,” the Abu Dhabi airline offers a wide array of food from Filipino pan de sal to European and Arabian cuisines served anytime.

“What matters is the choice of the customer, when and where they want to have it,” Etihad Philippines country manager Juan Torres said.

Since its Manila-Abu Dhabi flight is scheduled at around 1:00 a.m., breakfast-type of menu is offered to passengers.

For economy class, Etihad Airways offers the following: grilled eggplant pan de sal sandwich, chicken salad pan de sal sandwich, porcini custard, mixed bella olives, tomato and onion quiche, vegetable ratatouille, grilled chicken cheese and mushroom omelet, and cornedbeef hash with garlic rice.

Business class passengers have different choices of bread from plain croissant, banana muffin, marble cake, Arabic breads, and loaf bread. There are also cheese selection, treacle waffles with caramelized banana, cereals, fine herbs omelet with tomato and watercress salad, chicken tocino with scrambled eggs, steamed rice and asparagus, scrambled eggs, beef sausage, grilled tomato and sautéed field mushrooms.

Desserts like pomegranate fruit jelly, ice cream, cream yoghurt with diced pineapple and blueberries, and fresh fruits are also served.

The inspired service philosophy was conceived two years ago and Etihad Airways began implementing it last year, Torres said.

“Inspired service means that customer is at the heart of the business,” he said.

Etihad Airways is a five-year old airline based in Abu Dhabi and has recorded six million passengers in 2008. It claims to be the first carrier in the Philippines to offer a fully-flat bed.

Balloon Festival getting better

14th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival: A Soaring Success

February 22, 2009 12:00 AM
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MANILA, Philippines - Everyone’s eyes were turned towards the sky during the 14th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival held from Feb. 12-15 at the Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga.

Starting as a simple sporting event in 1994, then secretary of tourism Mina Gabor commissioned two balloon pilots from Korea and England for the event. Since then, the Hot Air Balloon Festival has become a full-blown spectacle.

As if last year’s 19 balloons were not enough, the 14th Hot Air Balloon Festival saw some 24 balloons soar through the sky. Among them were uniquely shaped balloons – a giant Coca-Cola bottle, Nescafe and DSV coffee mugs, a Kellogg’s balloon, a telephone booth, and even an elephant.

Ground traffic was not as free flowing as the balloons floating above, as hordes of spectators came to witness the aerial show. The upswell of more than 15,000 spectators on a perfect Saturday morning – Valentine’s day at that – was virtually unprecedented. The organizers from the Clark Development Corporation and the Philippine Balloon Foundation were expecting 100,000 visitors throughout the duration of the four-day festival.

This year’s festival showcased special aerosports events such as skydiving, light airplane balloon bursting competitions, Filipino/Malaysian/Thai paragliding exhibitions, an AFP flag jump, and formation flying. Less daring, but equally entertaining, were the choreographed kite flying and the remote control aircraft demo flying.

On ground, the festivities continued with a bazaar, high speed car drifting shows, performances by the Philippine Air Force band, and the San Fernando Giant Lantern parade.

The highlight of the last two nights was a fireworks display and a Night Glow show where the balloons were fired up and transformed into giant luminous lanterns as they drifted in the night sky.

SQ keeps Manila, cuts the rest of Asia

Singapore Airlines to keep its 3x daily B777 frequency
February 21, 2009

Singapore - The world’s largest airline by market value intends to keep Manila frequency as it is despite its announcement Monday on its plan to cut capacity by 11 percent in the year from April this year to March 2010 as travel and cargo demand wanes. The airline announces slash of its capacity after quarterly profit ending December fell the most in at least five years.

Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI) remains bullish on the Philippine market as the only country in Asia Pacific registering positive growth in the industry mostly fueled by OFW movements. Traffic in Asia declined by 13.5% in December from the same period a year ago, and decreased by 3.4% in 2008 from the preceding year.The company has seen declining passenger demand and had already cut flights to various Asian cities.

"The drop in demand owing to the global economic slowdown is the driver of the reduction in capacity," says the airline. It adds that it "will continue to monitor demand patterns and will make changes to its network when necessary".

According to International Air Transport Association (IATA), Asia-Pacific passenger traffic sank 9.7 percent in December, while freight volumes tumbled 26 percent. The traffic declines for both passengers and freight were the biggest of any region, the trade group added.

Civil Aeronautics Board executive director Carmelo Arcilla said that CAB could not provide local data to validate the global scene, since it was still collating statistical reports from airlines but initial data indicate that the Philippines has yet to feel the full effect of the global financial crisis. Meanwhile, Secretary Ace Durano of the Department of Tourism reported on Thursday that the Philippines received 3.14 million foreign tourists last year, significantly lower than its 3.5 million target. Its annual growth percentage was however higher compared to the other Asian region which registered a negative growth. Durano said he expects the trend to continue and the industry to post a flat foreign tourists growth or possibly continuing decline in arrivals, but growing OFW deployment will fuel the industry's modest growth this year.

Singapore Airlines also announces a simultaneous cutback of its more than 120 widebody aircraft fleet from both Airbus and Boeing. Its cutbacks comprise frequency reductions across its network or downsizing of aircraft, for example 777-300ERs are replacing Boeing 747-400s on some services such as to San Francisco (via Hong Kong) and London Heathrow. The airline has 51 planes on order from Airbus and 21 on order from Boeing.

“We have not yet deferred any aircraft deliveries yet, but are examining options to do so,” said Stephen Forshaw, the Singapore Air spokesman. “Our deliveries of new aircraft are not just about growth, but also to adhere to our long-standing policy of fleet renewal,” he said.

Manila remains a top market for passenger traffic in Asia Pacific registering a growth rate of 11.9% based on Changi Airport data for 2008. It followed second to Vietnam at 17%. In the region, the sectors of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam are the most active.

Four airlines have 9 daily flights between Singapore and Manila connecting more than 15,000 passengers a week.

Northwest hits turbulence

45 hurt as US-bound plane hits turbulence over Japan

TOKYO — Forty-five people were injured, at least three seriously, when a Northwest Airlines Boeing 747 hit turbulence on the Manila-Tokyo leg of a US-bound flight, according to airport officials.

Ambulances took the injured to local hospitals after the jet with 408 passengers and 14 crew landed at Narita International Airport outside Tokyo at 12:19 pm local time (0319 GMT) on Friday, an airport official said.

The flight had been set to continue on to Los Angeles after a stopover.

"The latest information we have is that 39 passengers were injured in addition to six crew members," said Toshiaki Nohara, a spokesman for Narita Airport Authority, which runs the airport.

A middle-aged woman passenger, speaking in accented Japanese, told the TBS television network: "The person in front of me flew up to the ceiling. The person behind me collapsed and looked unconscious."

A young man, also speaking in halting Japanese, said: "I was really scared. I thought I would die. The plane shook so much, and my whole body hovered up in the air. Inside the cabin, everybody was screaming loudly."

Northwest Airlines spokesman Masashi Takahashi said: "Air turbulence is believed to be the cause. The turbulence occurred 25 to 30 minutes before landing, when the seat belt light was on."

"During the flight, we received a message from the pilot saying two or three people were injured. But (the pilot) probably assessed that an emergency landing was not necessary," Takahashi told AFP.

"It is possible that the people injured did not have their seatbelts on, otherwise all of the 422 (people aboard) would have been injured as well."

Television images in Japan showed medical workers carrying two passengers off the plane, one on a stretcher and one in a wheelchair, while one young girl could be seen wearing a bandage around her head.

Among the most seriously injured were three Philippine nationals, two men and one women, Jiji news agency reported, quoting local police.

A 55-year-old US passenger said he heard screams when the plane suddenly descended before rising again, some 30 minutes before landing, the Kyodo news agency reported without naming the man.

Some people who did not have their seatbelts fastened hit their heads on the ceiling and injured their necks, he reportedly said.

The accident occurred while the Boeing 747-400 aircraft was circling over waters off Japan's Chiba Prefecture awaiting permission to land at Narita airport, officials said.

PAL losses $219 million to fuel hedges

$219 million reasons to defer new PAL widebody orders

February 20, 2009

MANILA - Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL.PS) officially reported to the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a total comprehensive losses of $219.86 million for the period ending December 2008.

In a financial statement submitted yesterday, the airline attributes its actual and mark-to-market losses from its fuel hedging contracts.

Philippine Airlines is the latest in a string of Asian airlines to disclose losses relating to fuel hedging at $ 219 million. Last week, Singapore Airlines revealed $225 million losses on hedging. Air China, China Eastern, Cathay Pacific, Shanghai Airlines and Thai Airways have all also flagged up mark to market losses. A Merrill Lynch report predicts nine Asian carriers will report $3.8 billion in estimated losses from contracts tied to fuel hedging in 2008.

The airline incurred a net loss of $113.8 million for the first half of its fiscal year which ended on Sept 30 as compared to its booked income of $22.7 million in the same period last year, and it went earning $30-million profit in 2007.

Other than massive losses on fuel hedge, all indicators point to a positive growth as it defied worldwide recession. PAL's operation remains the only bright spot in Asia Pacific as other legacy airlines registered declining traffic figures. The airline revenues for the third quarter increased by 15 percent to $405.90 million.

Passenger demand remained robust as PAL carried 2.34 million passengers during the same period - 24 percent higher than previous year’s figures.

Passenger load factor was also at 74 percent thanks to the continued patronage of overseas filipino workers and migrant filipino traffic.

For the first nine months of its fiscal year, PAL carried a total of 6.5 million passengers, a 16 percent jump over the same period the previous year.

Philippine Airlines is expected to post an income for the period January to March 2009, the last quarter of its current fiscal year which ends March 31.

PAL in a statement said that it expects better fourth quarter results as it takes advantage of lower fuel prices in the world market.

PAL’s total expenses for the quarter rose by 58 percent from last year to $586.96 million. Fuel continued to be the company’s top operating expense but PAL succeeded in controlling other expenses and keeping them in check. The company already delayed the delivery of its new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to November this year and deferred the refurbishment program of its 4 Boeing 747-400 this year to save cost. It was originally scheduled to be done last year. The airbus 340 refurbishment program was also deferred for one year. It was supposed to be done this year. It is unlikely to announce new widebody orders until the end of the year.

The airline also announced that it has no plans of grounding their planes amidst the recession even if other airlines started doing so. Singapore Airlines and Qantas recently announced grounding their aircraft due to poor loads.

Philippine Airlines instead joins Emirates Airlines in expanding its capacity this year by adding frequency to its domestic and international network. In fact, the airline is scheduled to take delivery of additional aircraft as part of its refleeting program. It intends to fly double Daily to Los Angeles by November.

The airline expects a modest growth in 2009. Bautista added that they will be happy if they will be able to achieve the same number of eight million passengers carried in 2008.

The International Air Transport Association(IATA) estimated that airlines lost a total of $5 billion in 2008 brought about by both the slowing global economy and the unprecedented volatility of fuel prices. It also said that some carriers were unlikely to reap the full benefit of the drop in fuel prices until 2010.The airline industry may lose as much $2.5 billion this year as traffic declines, with carriers in the Asia-Pacific region accounting for almost half of the deficit.

Philippines and Kuwait Amends ASA

19 February 2009

THE civil aeronautics regulators of Kuwait and the Philippines finally agreed on Tuesday the new Air Services Agreement (ASA) between the two countries.

Under the existing agreement between Kuwait and the Philippines, both countries were entitled to field up to six flights a week between both Manila and Kuwait. In the new pact, the number was raised to eight.

Porvenir Porciuncula, Deputy Executive Director and head of economic planning of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), said that both Philippines and Kuwait have agreed to raise flight entitlements to a total of 29 flights from six per week.

8 flights for Manila
14 flights for Clark
7 flights for Cebu, Davao and other international points

A fifth freedom right was also given to flights from Clark, allowing carriers to pick up a passenger from Kuwait before flying to another destination in a third country. Presently, Kuwait Airways is prohibited from carrying passengers from Manila to Bangkok. Under the new agreement, the airline is allowed to carry passengers to Bangkok from Clark. In return, Kuwait allowed Philippine airlines fifth freedom rights to Europe except London.

Negotiations between the two countries hit a snag last October as both panels expressed different views related to a request by Kuwaiti Airways to mount unlimited flights between the two countries. The Philippine air panel, through the main opposition of Philippine Airlines, rejected Kuwait’s request to service Kuwait-Manila on an unlimited basis. Kuwait insisted on an open-skies arrangement. Kuwait and the Philippines entered and signed the first ASA in 1977.

The CAB official said that both Cebu Pacific and Zest Airways, formerly Asian Spirit, are interested to mount flights to Kuwait. “I heard they want to, but they have yet to formally inform us that they are applying for rights.” The 8 rights for Manila are already owned by both Philippine Airlines and Kuwait Airways, leaving the new applicants to fly from Clark.

The Philippine air panel includes representatives from Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Tourism, Department of Trade and Industry, the local carriers and Clark Development Corp. The panel was headed by Transportation Undersecretary Doroteo A. Reyes.

The panel is slated to hold air talks with Bahrain on February 25 and 26, followed by negotiations with Australia and Brunei in March.

The country’s air panel has completed agreements with Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Macau, Canada, Finland, Cambodia, Iran and the Netherlands.

Latest data from Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) considers the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain as the top five of the top 10 destinations of OFWs in the Mideast.

In 2008, some 61,164 Filipinos left for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia alone . The remaining half were distributed by other Middle East countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain that were able to absorb more than 66,000 Filipino workers.

Emirates entices Southeast Asia

Emirates rolls out regional blitz

by Asiya Bakht
February 19, 2009

SINGAPORE - Emirates has launched a new BBDO/Proximity created campaign in Southeast Asia that seeks to promote the airlines' extensive network in Europe and strengthen its image as a global airline.

The campaign, which is targeted at business and leisure travellers was launched yesterday and will run until March this year.

Comprising of print, outdoor and online, the creative strategy behind this campaign involved using bridges of Europe to demonstrate symbolically how Emirates can link travellers from Southeast Asia to Europe. Regional markets where the campaign has been launched include Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Armed with a new fleet of aircraft, Emirates has been competing with Asian and European airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Air France, KLM, British Airways, Lufthansa, and Qantas, for long-range premium global air traffic that is routed through the centrally located Middle Eastern hub.

Emirates registered an 88 per cent cut in profitability during the first half of last year owing to high fuel prices.

Cold spell brings Europeans to the Philippines

By Random Jottings
Warm tourism comfort from cold Europe

BARELY had his feet touched down in Zurich where the temperatures were sub-zero than Department of Tourism (DOT) Undersecretary for Planning and Promotions Edu Jarque was calling us to impart the warm news that despite rumblings on the global economic front that was impacting on the worldwide tourism industry, the situation in the Philippines tourism wise was stable.

Much of this comparatively positive outlook has a lot to do with Jarque joining his boss, Tourism Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano, on marketing forays to Europe (including the current Swiss trip) where the duo have been spearheading a relentless drive to woo European tourists.

Good move that—since this initiative is now beginning to reap positive dividends. The increase in visitor count to the Philippines in 2008 is greatly attributed to the strong performance of the European markets led by Russia which posted a growth of 34 percent, France by 19 percent, and the United Kingdom by 10 percent. Scandinavian countries also recorded substantial increments as arrival from Finland grew by 19 percent, Norway (16 percent) and Sweden (6 percent).

In addition, the DOT’s effort to diversify and offer new tourist products like adventure, diving and bird watching provided an impetus to stimulate an increased awareness of the country’s tourist potentials, and also substantially increase turnout of high-value visitors with greater propensity to stay longer and spend more.

Any Filipino happening to be near any of the tourist landmarks, like the Rizal Monument in Luneta Park, and led to believe that most of suburban Shenzhen had descended on Manila, will be interested to know that Chinese tourists expanded last year to 163,689 as the DOT worked with Chinese travel agents and airlines to mount new charter flights to the Philippines from Shanghai, Nanning, Guangzhou and Kunming.

According to Jarque the recovery of the Taiwanese market was another significant highlight as it hit 118,782 arrivals, reflecting 5.86 percent growth. Mandarin Airlines chartered flights between Taipei-Kalibo and Cebu as well as Kaoshiung-Cebu yielded high tourist turnout from Taiwan.

Further down the globe, Australia surpassed its previous year record with 121,514 arrivals, posting an 8 percent increase. It also overtook Taiwan and Hong Kong, ranking in the 5th place. Canada, another strong market, continued to show significant improvement with 102,381 tourists.

The Middle East market led by the United Arab Emirate and Saudi Arabia posted 29 percent and 7-percent hike, respectively, in tourist arrivals as Middle Eastern airlines enjoyed an average of 90-percent load factor between Manila to Dubai and Abu Dhabi as well as Cebu to Doha.

But Korea and the USA remained supreme as the top source markets with a share of 19 percent and 18 percent, respectively, accounting for 38 percent of the total tourist inflow.

The ocean waves also helped boost tourism as cruise arrivals surged by 22 percent with Manila and Cebu being the major ports of call. Aside from the Italian line MV Costa Allegra that was a regular caller, five other cruise ships also docked in bringing an aggregate of 4,226 passengers.

Last year also saw the contraction in total outbound travel of key source markets. Korea’s total outbound declined by 4.9 percent, Japan’s total outbound travel slipped by 7.4 percent and the USA by 0.4 percent.

This trend underpinned the United Nations World Tourism Organization report that tourism growth in the Asia and the Pacific region was declining rapidly by mid-2008. Arrivals to Singapore dropped by 1.5 percent in spite of several high profile events in the city state. And foreign tourists to Hong Kong (with the exception of arrivals from China) also declined by 4.5 percent.

But, as Jarque was delighted to note on behalf of his hard working boss, despite these regional market developments, international visitor arrivals to the Philippines grew by 1.5 percent in 2008, reaching 3,139, 442.

That’s definitely cause for (albeit mooted) cheering at the DOT redoubt in Luneta. But as Durano and Jarque will be the first to admit, maintaining those figures—and then building on them—is the key mission for 2009. And it would seem the DOT is already on to that! MANILATIMES

Air Philippines to fly Surigao

February 18, 2009

Air Philippines to fly Surigao this summer!

Manila- Low Cost Carrier Air Philippines intends to fly Manila-Surigao 4 times weekly starting March this year. The airline founded in 1995, will substitute PAL Express Q400 service and operates on code share agreement with Philippine Airlines.

A Boeing 727-200 jet aircraft, which seat 118 passengers in a monoclass layout, will be deployed on the route. The schedule will eventually be increase to daily flight this summer.

Air Philippines President & CEO Capt. Edilberto R. Medina said that it just concluded a probing flight to Surigao City on 16 February and they intend to launch flight there as soon as possible.

Surigao will becomes Air Philippines’ 9th domestic destination in the airline’s expanding route network based at hubs in Manila and Cebu. The airline has recently suspended its commercial operations to three major Mindanao cities in July last year and reduced much of its frequency for its main Visayas-Mindanao service due to massive losses and intense competition with Cebu Pacific. It canceled its services from Manila to the cities of Davao (daily), Zamboanga (daily) and Cagayan de Oro (twice daily). It also decreased flights between Cebu City and Davao City. It also reduced the frequency of its Manila-Puerto Princesa City service leaving only one daily flights for the route. It just restarted Manila-Davao late last year.

Airline industry sources said the airline’s decision to cut its route network was part of cost-cutting amid the skyrocketing price of aviation fuel. The airline has been hit particularly hard by high petroleum prices in 2008 because its jet fleet consists mostly of 20-year-old Boeing 737-200s, whose engines are substantially less fuel-efficient than their modern counterparts.

The airline retained only its profitable routes and currently flies to Puerto Princesa, Iloilo, Davao, Naga, and Ozamiz. It has 7 active Boeing 737-200 advance and 1 Boeing 737-300 aircraft on its fleet. Presently, it operates only 4 aircraft and grounded 4 others. Air Philippines has announced a plan to completely ground its 737s by 2010 but deferred its implementation due to massive losses in 2008. The airline is expected to receive two A320 this year.

Air Philippines carried 913,570 passengers in 2008. It will resume twice daily flights from Cebu to Davao and Iloilo starting March 16, 2009.

KLM announces Liverpool connection to Manila

February 17, 2009

Amsterdam - Franco-Dutch airline alliance KLM (AIRF.PA) said on Monday that it will connect Liverpool to Manila via its Amsterdam hub at Schiphol when it opens the new route on March 29.

The new three times daily connection flight will be operated by its regional airline KLM Cityhopper using brand new Embraer 190 jets. The frequency will make it easier for Filipinos residing in Liverpool City Region, Cheshire and North Wales to go home bypassing London and Manchester via its worldwide hub.

The airline said that hundreds of passengers bound to the Philippines had taken bookings already. Some 60% of the airline bookings are out of Liverpool and 30% of those passengers will fly on to over 100 worldwide destinations on KLM's own intercontinental network.

On the new route from Liverpool John Lennon Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol, Christine Ourmières, the general manager Air France KLM UK & Ireland, said “Our decision to operate this service from Liverpool John Lennon Airport is a significant part of our strategy to provide greater access to Amsterdam and the Netherlands from the UK regions."

Data from the Philippine Department of Tourism(DOT) showed that traffic between Manila and Amsterdam has been increasing from a two-way volume of 186,504 in 2005 to 208,255 in 2006 and 212,078 in 2007. The rate of tourists coming to the Philippines from the Netherlands has grown 3.4 percent and from the rest of Europe, 13.84 percent.

The Netherlands-based KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is presently the only European airline flying from the Philippines to Europe. Its load factor in Manila also improved steadily from 85 percent in 2005, 88 percent in 2006, 89 percent in 2007, and 92 percent in 2008. It plans to add 3 more flights in 2009 if their load continue to climb beyond 95% this year.

Currently, it flies Manila daily with its brand Boeing 777-300ER. The airline took delivery of its first Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in February 13 last year and was deployed immediately to the Philippines. The aircraft type which is in a two-class configuration, was also deployed on routes to Dubai, Sao Paulo Guarulhos, and New York JFK. KLM has aligned the configuration and specification of its 777-300ER with Air France, which has operated the type since May 2004. KLM currently operates 15 777-200ERs.

A spokesman for Europe's largest airline said that it would delay taking delivery of several aircraft by two to three years as it seeks to rein in costs in the face of the global economic downturn. The delay would involve about five aircraft, including some Boeing 777-300 planes, some Boeing 777 cargo planes, and some Airbus (EAD.PA) planes. He added that delivery of an A380 superjumbo plane was still expected for the end of the year.The airline is not expected to cancel any plane orders.