China Eastern now in Clark


Philippine Daily Inquirer

China’s second largest airline is mounting flights to Clark International Airport, helping the government’s efforts to boost traffic at the Pampanga gateway that is being positioned as a viable alternative to Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Clark International Airport Corp., the state-run operator of Clark Airport, announced that China Eastern Airlines would start flights between Clark and Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport on Oct. 18, 2017.

“The great news is that travelers from north and central Luzon may now fly China Eastern from Clark to Shanghai and easily connect to the US and other major destinations in Europe and Asia and other international routes,” Alexander Cauguiran, CIAC president and CEO, said in a statement.

Flights would be daily, he said in a text message.

The government is luring more airlines to use Clark Airport, which is significantly underutilized.

Recent efforts have increased volume— it is now targeting 1.5 million passengers in 2017 — but this is still below its capacity of four million passengers per year. Clark Airport handled less than a million passengers in 2016.

Closer ties to Beijing and increased tourism interest in the Philippines have been luring more Chinese to the Philippines.

The Department of Tourism counts China as the third largest market of Philippine tourism. About 630,000 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines from January to November 2016 but with warmer ties with Beijing, the DOT expects this number of arrivals to double by the end of 2017.

“China Eastern also targets mostly business travelers and Chinese family tourists who wish to visit popular local destinations, and that influx (of Chinese tourists) will boost the local hotel industry and business communities in north and central Luzon,” Cauguiran said.

From January to May 2017, Clark Airport already registered 632,713 passengers and 4,603 domestic and international flights.

Cauguiran said Clark Airport was also in talks with other airlines to mount direct flights between Clark and the US West Coast.

The carrier needs to boost usage as the BCDA is proceeding with the construction of a new passenger terminal capable of handling 8 million passengers yearly. The project is due for completion in early 2020.

To further support the gateway, the Department of Transportation said it would pursue the construction of a P255 billion railway project that would link Clark to Manila. The project is slated for completion by 2021.—Miguel R. Camus


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