Southeast Asian Airlines (Seair), one of the Philippines’ most aggressive local aviation players, has put on hold plans to go regional until the economic crisis and H1N1 virus issues are resolved.
Instead, it has decided to step up efforts to promote tourism in an archipelago still largely unexplored by Filipinos themselves as well as the wider international travel market.
After launching a sector between Puerto Princesa, Palawan to Kota Kinabalu in November last year – part of the Clark-Caticlan (Boracay)-Puerto Princesa-KK service – Seair management then revealed its vision to fly eventually to Singapore, Macau, Incheon, Bangkok and Kaoshiung. But global developments put a damper on this.
However, Seair’s domestic game plan received a boost recently when the Caticlan Airport, the jump off point to the renowned resort island of Boracay, was reconfigured by the government, leaving the carrier its sole user. Cebu Pacific and PAL Express of Philippine Airlines now land in Kalibo, having to make arrangements for their passengers to take the two-and-a-half hour trip to Caticlan. Although the shuttle is free, the transfer process can be annoying for time-strapped holiday makers.
A business consortium has won the bid to build a new Caticlan passenger terminal, but that is expected to still take about two years to build.
With increased demand, Seair officials said they would not “unduly jack up air fares”. According to Seair president Avelino Zapanta daily flights between Manila and Caticlan were recently increased from 18 to 27, rising to 27 in October, the start of the peak season, and in December to 32 flights. “Then, we’ll see how it goes after that,” he said.
The Cebu-Caticlan service was also relaunched on August 7 to fill in the vacuum left by Cebu Pacific.
Besides Boracay, which has been attracting, not just leisure traffic but corporate meeting groups, Zapanta said other destinations ripe for promoting included the provinces of Batanes, Masbate and Marinduque, which all boast pristine natural attractions, a unique culture and an unspoiled way of life.
The airline is in the process of adding three Dornier type aircraft to its current fleet inventory.
For more details on the airline, visit www.flyseair.com
Margie T Logarta