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02
Jun

Davao flights part of Qatar air deal

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THE PHILIPPINES recently sealed a new air service agreement with Qatar that added more flights to the route and a commitment from Doha to mount direct flights from Davao.

The new deal -- signed by Transportation Undersecretary for Aviation Manuel Antonio L. Tamayo and Abdullah Al Subaey of Qatar on May 28 -- increased the maximum number of flights between Manila and Doha flown by Qatar Airways to 18 flights per week for the airlines of each country from the current total of 14 flights per week.

“It is perceived that the expansion of traffic rights between the Philippines and Qatar under the new Memorandum of Understanding will enhance the connectivity between the two countries that will enable the further expansion of trade, investment, services and people to people exchange between the two countries,” the Department of Transportation (DoTr) said in a statement yesterday.

“More importantly, the inclusion of Davao in the route structure of Qatar Airways will provide much-needed connectivity for Davao to the major markets of the world, especially with Qatar directly connected to 161 international destinations. This connectivity will support Davao’s emergence as a major economic and commercial hub of the Philippines,” it added.

The agreement was tagged by the DoTr as a “landmark” deal since it included as a condition for Qatar Airways to have flights from Davao “within one year from commencement of the four additional flights to Manila.”

The target for commencement of operations for the four additional flights to Manila is between October and March 2018.

Qatar Airways currently operates 14 flights per week between Doha and Manila, plus seven flights per week to Clark, while Philippine Airlines (PAL) currently operates four flights between Manila and Doha.

PAL and Cebu Pacific Air earlier cited “overcapacity” on Middle Eastern routes, prompting airlines to suspend some of their services.

“[O]ur position is that there should be no additional flights, just like our position during the last air talks,” PAL President Jaime J. Bautista told reporters recently.

Sought for comment on the outcome of the air talks, Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Executive Director Carmelo L. Arcilla said the additional flights were in the national interest.

“The exchange of traffic flights shall be based on national interest. The air talks are an opportunity for us to negotiate some additional flights from other hubs outside Manila ... to sweeten the pot in Davao... that’s the value for us as we promote other airports,” he said via phone.

“It’s not the first time that we’re using this strategy. It’s like the agreement with UAE, there is a provision that they have to fly to an airport outside Manila. (The) national interest (involves) the development of gateways outside Metro Manila,” Mr. Arcilla added in the telephone interview.

PAL announced it is suspending its Manila-Abu Dhabi flights starting July 8 as it undertakes “route assessment initiatives” although it will continue flying to Dubai, Doha, Jeddah, Riyadh, Kuwait and Dammam.

Cebu Pacific meanwhile said it will suspend its long-haul service from Manila to Riyadh, Kuwait and Doha -- citing “oversupply” amid intense competition from Gulf carriers. The airline, however, will continue to fly to Dubai.

Both PAL and Cebu Pacific were not immediately available for comment yesterday.

The CAB executive said the next air talks are with Egypt on June 16, to be held here in Manila. -- Imee Charlee C. Delavin

 

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