Davao-Dubai direct flights eyed in air talks with UAE
The government is looking to seal a landmark deal with two of the biggest airlines in United Arab Emirates (UAE) that, if confirmed, would launch the first regular direct flights from the Davao International Airport to Dubai.
The bilateral air service discussions between the Philippines and UAE would be held on April 26 and 27 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu City.
If approved, the deal would pave the way for Emirates Airlines to directly serve Davao from its base in Dubai, and Etihad Airways to fly to Davao from the Abu Dhabi International Airport. The proposed deal would be the first international routes from Mindanao to destinations outside the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) periphery.
At present, Emirates flies 18 weekly flights from Dubai to Manila, while Etihad sends 17 flights weekly from Abu Dhabi to the Philippine capital.
“At a time when the Philippines is laboring under a public relations cloud, following the issuance of travel advisories by certain countries warning of security concerns for travel to certain parts of the central and southern Philippines, a positive announcement of new UAE-Davao services would give the country a much-needed image-enhancing boost,“ said Gatchi Gatchalian, president of Davao Tourism Association, in a statement. “It would give travel industry stakeholders a platform on which to build up new promotional campaigns to attract tourists from the Middle East and environs.”
Davao City Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano said direct air access to the Davao International Airport would improve the region’s agri-business industry, economic development, and tourism prospects.
“Davao is one of the four priority areas in the National Tourism Development Plan so we need international flights and other solid initiatives to support this,” Albano said in a statement. “We propose that priority be given to negotiating direct flights to Mindanao in aviation discussions with foreign countries and airlines, as a matter of policy and strategy.”
Gatchalian urged the Philippine government not to give in to the UAE airlines’ request to add more flights to Manila, as it would “only exacerbate the desperately congested situation” at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
“The NAIA is already severely congested, as the MIAA now caps airlines to a maximum of 40 take-offs or landings every hour,” Gatchalian said. “Local airlines have been required to reduce some of their domestic routes since late 2016… It would be inconsistent and discriminatory for the government to now take a different approach and allow UAE airlines to expand to Manila. Congestion will be worsened, not just in terms of runway movements but also more passengers coursing through NAIA’s overburdened terminals.”
“Every single additional flight to Manila means that you have one less flight that could have been routed to Davao instead,” she added. “This is a strategic opportunity for the Phil Government to seize: If airlines like Emirates and Etihad are so bent on putting up more flights to the Philippines and are claiming to offer contributions in the form of increased tourism, trade and OFW servicing, then the country should direct them to put these resources and investments where they can truly count and bear fruit – by flying to Davao instead.”
Previous aviation negotiations with the UAE in 2012 and 2015 expanded air rights entitlements to the current maximum of 70 flights per week or 10 flights daily between Manila and the prime UAE airports of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
In the upcoming talks, the Philippine panel will be led by representatives from the Department of Transportation, Civil Aviation Board, Department of Tourism, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Labor and Employment, and local carriers led by PAL and Cebu Pacific. /atm
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