Airlines from European countries are taking a second look at Asian destinations, including points in the Philippines, to take advantage of the region’s bright economic prospects.
The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) said it already had several bilateral negotiations lined up for the first quarter of 2013 to secure additional air rights between the Philippines and European countries.
This was despite the standing ban on all Philippine carriers from flying to points in Europe, or even over the continent’s air space due to concerns over the enforcement of safety rules by regulators on local airlines.
“We are already scheduled to meet with a lot of countries, including European countries. The others are China, Japan, Taiwan and even Brazil,” said CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla, who sits on the Philippine air panel that negotiates for air rights with its foreign counterparts.
“The interest is coming from both ways. Several European countries have expressed new interest in the Philippines,” Arcilla said in an interview, noting that local companies, too, were exploring the possibility of mounting European flights.
“PAL (Philippine Airlines) wants to return to Europe and of course Cebu Pacific plans to start long-haul flights in 2013,” he said.
Flag carrier PAL earlier said it wanted to mount flights to popular destinations like the United Kingdom, Spain and France, as it adds more planes to its fleet and diversifies its route network.
In December, the airline asked the CAB for rights to be able to mount flights to Turkey.
The main reason for demand for flights in the Philippines was the country’s solid economic performance, Arcilla said. “There’s renewed interest in the Philippines because of the growing economy, especially the tourism sector,” he said.
Tourism department data showed that 3.83 million foreign tourists came to the Philippines from January to November of 2012, up by 8.73 percent over the same period a year earlier. The government wants to attract 4.6 million tourists to the Philippines for the entire year.
Another reason was the expected scrapping of the common carriers tax (CCT) and gross Philippine billings (GBP) taxes imposed by the government on foreign airlines.
This year, Air France-KLM halted non-stop flights between Manila and Amsterdam, the last remaining direct link between the Philippines and Europe. Air France-KLM’s Manila-Amsterdam flights now have stops in Hong Kong.
Air France-KLM said the CCT and GBP taxes made non-stop flights to the Philippines unprofitable for the company.