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Philippines, Malaysia sign deal to boost flights

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November 3, 2008

Philippines, Malaysia sign deal to boost flights
Air travel between the Philippines and Malaysia is expected to become easier and cheaper after officials of the two Southeast Asian countries sealed "the largest deal" in a series of air rights negotiations this year, reported a local daily.

The Philippines Daily Inquirer quoted Clark International Airport Corp. president and CEO Victor Jose I Luciano as saying that the new agreement will allow the operation of flights that will carry as many as 9,000 passengers weekly from the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) to any destination in Malaysia.

This translates roughly to seven new flights weekly between DMIA and Malaysia, based on aircraft the size of Airbus A320s or Boeing 737s.

The bulk of the new flights are expected to be operated by budget carriers--several of which are already flying out of DMIA to regional destinations--catering to cost-conscious flyers.

At present, Malaysian carrier Air Asia operates two flights to DMIA from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, catering to Filipino expatriate workers.

According to Luciano, the air talks also resulted in additional entitlements of 2,300 seats a week for flights between the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and any Malaysian destination, excluding the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, as well as 2,000 seats a week for any Malaysian destination from any Philippine airport, excluding Naia and DMIA.

Luciano described the negotiations as "smooth" and said they were concluded within the first day of the expected two-day affair, in contrast to the previous week's air talks between the Philippines and Kuwait, which ended in an impasse.

Ciac hosted the Philippines-Hong Kong air talks earlier this year, where both sides got 8,600 seat entitlements that would pave the way for air carriers to fly out of DMIA via Clark-Hong Kong flights in the near future. Other successful air talks included those with Macau, Thailand, Cambodia, Finland and Canada.

Cebu Pacific Air is set to mount daily international services at DMIA on November 8 via Clark-Singapore and Clark-Hong Kong flights, and four times a week via Clark-Bangkok and Clark-Macau. The local carrier is the first major carrier to mount daily international and local flights to the airport.

Cebu Pacific Air started its daily Clark-Cebu flights on October 1.

Luciano also announced last week that local carriers South East Asian Airlines (Seair), Zest Air (formerly Asian Spirit) and Air Philippines would soon start operations at DMIA.

He said passenger volume was expected to increase due to the entry of more air carriers at DMIA, which has become the favorite entry and exit point of overseas Filipino workers based in Asian countries and US-based Filipinos, who hail from Central and Northern Luzon.

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