Wednesday, August 10, 2005

More Flights

More carriers to use Cebu airport
Clarissa S. Batino
Inquirer News Service

HONG KONG airline Cathay Pacific will double its flights to twice daily to and from the Mactan International Airport starting Oct. 1 in anticipation of increased volume going to the Crown Colony once the Disney theme park opens in Hong Kong next month, the airport head said.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Qatar Airways will also introduce new flights from Cebu in the fourth quarter of the year, said Mactan airport general manager Adelberto Yap.

PAL will launch a direct flight to Guangzhou, China, in the fourth quarter and Qatar will increase its flights to twice daily to and from Cebu, Yap said.

"Qatar is the only airline servicing the Middle East route direct from Cebu and has a monopoly of the overseas workers from the Visayas and Mindanao," he said in an Inquirer interview.

Budget carrier South Phoenix Airlines is scheduled to begin flights from Malaysia to Cebu in mid-August, Yap also said.

South Phoenix, a Filipino-Malaysian joint venture, currently flies from Cebu to Zamboanga City in Mindanao and Sandakan in the Malaysian state of Sabah.

Cargo carrier Trans Global Air lines will also start carrying goods from Asia, primarily China, through the Cebu hub on Aug. 22.

Last month, South Korea's Asiana Airlines started four weekly week flights from Incheon to Cebu. Korean Airlines began Pusan -Cebu operations on Aug. 1.

Yap said the Mactan airport had completed a P123-million improvement of its runway and had just purchased nine brand-new X-ray machines.

The airport authority plans to acquire two P200-million movable air bridges to augment the capacity of the terminal, he added. It needs two more to support the growing passenger volume, which is expected to increase in the coming weeks when Asiana and Korean Air start mounting direct flights, he said.

The present four air bridges can no longer accommodate the increasing number of flights landing and taking off from Cebu, he said. The airport authority uses a bus to bring or fetch passengers to areas far from the terminal every time the four bridges are used, he said.

Early this year, airlines complained that the Mactan airport's rough runway surface was damaging the tires of their aircraft, Yap said. Some even threatened to pull out if the runway was not fixed, he said.

Yap said the airport authority would need about P2 billion to build a new passenger terminal, which he said would have to be built in three years to keep up with passenger volume. He said the government would likely take out bank loans for the purpose.

From about 2.5 million passengers it handled last year, the Cebu airport expects to handle five million passengers in five years, he said. With