Aussie airline set to start charter flights to CebuBy Cris Evert B. Lato
CEBU CITY—The province’s tourism trade will get a shot in the arm once Wild Orchid Airlines of Australia begins direct charter flights on December 15.
The airline will operate the Darwin-Cebu route. Darwin’s proximity to Asia is the primary reason behind the charter flights, Wild Orchid’s director for global operations David Fleming told the Inquirer.
Darwin, part of Australia’s Northern Territory, is three and a half hours from Cebu, which is considered one of the Philippines’ popular tourist destinations.
Fleming explained that Wild Orchid Airlines would offer direct charter flights based on peak demand.
The charter flights will operate for 20 Saturdays starting December 15. The weekly service is scheduled to run until Dec. 28, 2013.
“Darwin’s proximity to Asia gives us great opportunities. The reality is that our population base cannot sustain additional permanent regular weekly air services to new Asian destinations such as Cebu.”
“Wild Orchid Airlines believes that a cooperative approach will be the new sustainable option for Territorians looking for a new, affordable, safe and exciting holiday destination for singles, couples, families and groups,” the airline said.
The airline noted that since charter flights do not operate like a traditional airline, it allows more scope and flexibility in the person’s travel planning.
Department of Tourism Central Visayas (DoT 7) regional director Rowena Lu Montecillo said they were working with tour operators and tourism establishments to prepare for the Australian market.
“For now, we are doing more research to pin down what it is that they really want. Based on our initial research, we know that Australians are adventurous and they love beaches. And we have a lot of that in Cebu and in the whole Central Visayas,” Montecillo said in a phone interview.
She said Cebu might initially welcome families and tour groups, but that the DoT was looking forward to attract business groups and the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) market in the future.
Montecillo said the continuity of charter flights after 2013 would depend on the success of the one-year service.
She said the charter flights would also provide an opportunity for Filipinos who live near Darwin to visit the Philippines during the holidays.
Montecillo said Australia was a growing tourist market.
DoT 7 data showed that 2,732 Australians visited Central Visayas in the first six months of 2012, a 40-percent increase from the 1,944 tourists who visited the region during the same period in 2011.
To service the Darwin-Cebu route, the airline has hired a Boeing 737 and crew from Qantas, Australia’s flag carrier. It offers full-service economy and business-class accommodations.
The direct charter flights will depart from Darwin at 1 p.m. every Saturday. It will leave Cebu at 4:35 p.m.
The airline also boasts of a catered flight with generous baggage allowance of 20 kilograms for economy guests and 30 kilograms for business class.
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