MANILA, Philippines—Filipino-owned Southeast Asian Airlines, or SEAir, began flying out tourists to Cebu on Tuesday, to take advantage of the growing tourism activities in Central Visayas.
SEAir flight DG-7006 flew to Cebu City around 1 p.m. on Tuesday from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 4 (formerly the Manila Domestic Airport). The flight utilized a brand-new 144-seater Airbus 319.
SEAir officials, led by its president Avelino Zapanta and chief operations officer Patrick Tan, together with Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines director general William Hotchkiss III, attended the inaugural rites at the Terminal 4 ramp.
“Cebu is one of the most important destinations in the country and its central location makes it a major gateway to the islands in the Visayas region. Our presence here means an increase in trade and tourism in the region as well as job generation,” Tan said.
Tan said the airline has been working to attract not only travelers to metropolitan Cebu but also to the various resort islands, dive sites and marine sanctuaries in the province such as Malapascua and the Bantayan Islands, Camotes, Olango and Oslob.
With the addition of three daily flights to Cebu, about 300,000 arrivals are expected every year, translating to the creation of jobs directly and indirectly, according to Tan.
SEAir will be flying in and out of Cebu three times daily. A fourth daily flight is awaiting approval from the Civil Aeronautics Board.
To attract passengers, the airline opened for online sale on Tuesday a P1 “one-way, all-in” special rate promo for travel to Cebu from Sept. 1 to 30 this year.
Hotchkiss assured passengers of SEAir and other airlines that the government has been doing all it could to curb congestion and delays at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Hotchkiss, who was appointed to head CAAP a month ago, said the agency’s “consolidated arrival slotting system” has been underway.
“We want our flights safe, orderly and expeditious. So far the feedback is nice. We have the same number of flights and yet our arrivals are now orderly and timed so that they don’t happen all at once,” the retired air force general told reporters.
The CAAP has been hard-pressed to cope with the increasing air traffic at NAIA brought about by more foreign tourist arrivals and domestic travelers whom SEAir and other local airlines have been trying to attract with budget fare promos.
The Cebu flight was just the start of SEAir’s ongoing expansion. This August, the airline’s will also send its flights to Tacloban, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa, Davao and Bacolod. Tan said the airline has been eyeing both Manila and Cebu to become its regional hubs.
SEAir’s current main hub is Clark International Airport; it offers flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kota Kinabalu and Kalibo. The airline plans to launch more flights soon to Naga, Legazpi, Bohol, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos and Tawi-tawi as wel as international flights to South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia.
SEAir, which partnered with the Singapore-based Tiger Airways in 2010, recently converted its operations from that of a leisure airline to a low-cost budget airline.