Qatar seen restoring Cebu-Doha flights
QATAR Airways may revive this year its Cebu-Doha route due to improving prospects, according to a report by airline consultancy firm Capa-Center for Aviation.
Qatar withdrew its Cebu operations in March 2012 but kept its presence in Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Clark International Airport in Pampanga.
In its report on Qatar Airways’ Southeast Asia expansion, Capa said the Doha-based carrier “expects to commence the new Cebu service in 2016,” citing the airline’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker.
The route, first launched in 2003 using an Airbus A330-200, was “unprofitable” for Qatar Airways due to low yields. However, Capa said the carrier deemed the route viable today with more efficient Boeing 787s and newer next-generation planes, once these were delivered.
Once launched, Doha will be the third long-haul destination for Cebu’s Mactan Cebu International Airport. In March this year, new routes linking Cebu and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates will be launched, via Philippine Airlines and Emirates.
“Emirates and Qatar will provide new faster connections to the Middle East and Europe but intensifying competition will impact yields, and it is unclear if there is sufficient demand from the Philippines second largest city to support two Gulf airlines,” Capa said.
In the meantime, traffic has been steadily increasing at MCIA, which is being expanded and operated by a consortium led by India’s GMR Infrastructure and Filipino company Megawide Construction Corp. Recently, MCIA was named best transport deal for Asia Pacific in the 2015 Partnership Finance International Awards.
Capa noted that MCIA, the country’s second-busiest air gateway, recorded international passenger growth of 20 percent to 2 million in 2015.
“Mactan-Cebu has emerged as an alternative hub to Manila, where congestion limits growth opportunities for Cebu Pacific, PAL [Philippine Airlines], and foreign airlines,” Capa said.
Qatar Airways’ broader expansion plans in the Philippines means it can operate 28 weekly flights in the country by the end of 2016, against 14 flights per week last September. With Cebu, the carrier would be the third-biggest international airline operating in the Philippines after Cathay Pacific and Emirates.
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