Saudi Arabia, Philippines ink new air dealBy Paolo G. Montecillo |Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Philippine government has signed a new deal with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to increase flights as local airlines pursue aggressive expansion plans.
Following two days of negotiations this week, the local air panel signed the bilateral air service agreement (ASA) for flights to the Middle East, where millions of Filipinos work.
Under the new deal, flights between Manila and Jeddah were more than doubled to 21 a week from the current 10.
The agreement also removed restrictions to the number of flights between Clark Freeport, Pampanga, to any point in Saudi Arabia. In return, the country agreed to remove limits on the number of flights between Damman and any point in the Philippines.
The Philippine negotiating team was led by Transportation Undersecretary Jose Perpetuo Lotilla, who heads the department’s legal team.
Carmelo Arcilla, head of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) and vice chairman of the interagency air panel, said the country had sought an increase in the number of flights to Saudi Arabia at the request of the country’s local airlines.
Local carriers, Arcilla said, were starting to consider more flights outside the Asia-Pacific region in a bid to expand their reach and grab a larger share of the market.
For instance, Cebu Pacific, which will take delivery of four brand-new Airbus A330-300 planes in 2013, said it would start long-haul flights to the United States and the Middle East by next year.
Also, flag carrier Philippine Airlines plans to focus on major domestic routes and expand its international operations. Minor domestic routes, meanwhile, will be transferred to sister firm Air Philippines.
At the moment, no local airline has flights to the Middle East.
Earlier this month, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates agreed to significantly increase flights between them as both countries look to boost their trade and tourism sectors.