Clark International Airport, the former US air force base north of Metro Manila, has gained ground in recent years as a low-cost carrier hub, an accomplishment the management is proud of – for now.
“We don’t mind being known for attracting budget airlines,” Victor Jose Luciano, CIAC (Clark International Airport Corporation) president and chief executive officer, told Business Traveller. “We like it.”
CIAC’s long-term vision, however, is to serve as the second gateway to Luzon (one of the Philippines’ three main islands and where Manila is located). Says Luciano: “Clark Airport can serve the population of central and northern Luzon and those living in the north part of Manila like Quezon City, while NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) can serve southern Luzon.” As comparable examples, he cites the Japan’s Narita and Haneda airports as well as London’s Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted facilities. Clark is located in the province of Pampanga in central Luzon.
International departure hall
Clark’s role in the bigger picture is as catalyst in the master plan of the government’s Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) to establish “Aerotropolis”, a competitive service and logistics centre by 2015. This will consist of a logistics park, a business precinct, an aeropark for air crew training and the town proper, occupying around 163 hectares. Currently, there are 550 “locators” (companies operating in CSEZ), including aviation schools, warehouses, a maintenance unit of Singapore Airlines, hotels such as Holiday Inn and condominiums.
The airport itself (the former Military Airlift Command or MAC used during the Vietnam conflict) will see greater expansion, and a third runway added to the existing two which are already capable of accommodating A380s.
View from departure hall of Mount Arayat, one of the area's iconic attractions
Accessibility from Metro Manila remains a big challenge for Clark Airport authorities to address. The city's infamous bottlenecks add up to the journey time if a traveller is coming from the Ortigas or Makati CBDs, and this makes the facility less viable at the moment. A light railway between Manila and Clark is the most practical solution, but is an expensive one for the goverment, which is still mulling over ways to attract investors to the project. For now, cars and taxi and bus services are the only way to arrive at the airport. Bus terminals serving Clark are located at SM Mega Mall in Quezon City and Trinoma commercial centre near the NLEX (North Luzon Expressway), from where it's a smooth 45-minute ride to the facility complex.
Next month, a new bus terminal and waiting hall will be inaugurated at the Trinoma Mall, according to Luciano of CIAC, making the pre-boarding experience a more comfortable one.
Air Asia Philippines arrival
At press time, low-cost airlines that serve Clark Airport include Air Asia, Air Asia Philippines, Airphil Express of Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Jin Air, Seair, Zest Air, with two full-service airlines Asiana Airlines and Dragonair also flying there.
For more details, visit www.clarkairport.com
Margie T Logarta